When earthly fathers – and churches – disappoint us

We all have our green balloons, things that matter to us. But do our fathers see them?

It was a spring evening smelling of dirt and dust, the sound of tractors tilling up earth and the weeping beauty of a thousand frogs mating. 

I looked up from the kitchen sink, saw my oldest trudging back to the house from the garden where he’d been helping his dad plant potatoes. The green balloon he’d boasted proudly from a string on his wrist – a year-end gift from his Awana instructor – was dragging behind him in defeat. My spirit sagged.

Meanwhile, I could see the bent-over back of my husband in his blue coveralls, digging up the earth, dropping in the seed, alone.

My son entered through the back door. I turned, looked into tearful eyes. 

“Dad said I couldn’t plant with my balloon,” he said, choking. “When I showed him I could, he pulled on the string and it broke. Dad broke my balloon. He said sorry, but now the string is broken.” He was sobbing now. “I didn’t want to plant potatoes, but I thought taking my balloon with me would make it fun. It’s not fun anymore. Dad told me to go to my room.”

With that, he turned, and mournfully climbed the stairs to his room while I stood dripping soapy bubbles on the floor.

To my son, that balloon had mattered. It had meant something. 

To my husband, it had been an exasperating green rubber blob, whipping in the wind. 

One had seen it as vital for fulfilling the task, the other, as interfering. Hearts were hurt, and ultimately, the work suffered. 

Later, even as balloon strings were repaired and hearts mended, my husband and I were talking about other things – things like masks, and COVID and vaccines, and the incredible division around it all in the church. 

“We all have our ‘green balloons,’” I told my husband. Things that matter to us. Others may not understand them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. We might get really annoyed and want to rip those balloons off others’ wrists, but for them, those balloons are deeply entrenched and meaningful. We just can’t see it. 

But are we looking? 

‘The God Who Sees’

As a little girl, I had a very busy dad, doing very important things for the church, but he didn’t see me. He didn’t know me. And so I starved myself, half-trying to get his attention, half-trying to die. When I was 13, and hospitalized, the nurses said I should have died. They said I was a miracle. And that’s when I heard my Heavenly Father whisper, “I see you.” And that’s when my earthly dad saw me too.

This same Heavenly Father saw Hagar in the wilderness, when no one else did. “I see you,” He whispered, and she called Him, “The God Who Sees.”

Right now there are a lot of people looking out for themselves, seeing only themselves, because the thing is, when we’ve had too many balloons ripped off our wrists, we start to care only about protecting the balloons. As a result, the work suffers. The task we’ve been given of bringing souls into the kingdom of heaven gets neglected. 

Fathers – put down your important “things” and see your children. Get down to their level, look them in the eyes, delight in their “balloons” and remind them they are loved. 

Churches – put down your religious “things” and instead, see your brothers and sisters in Christ. Get down to their level, look them in the eyes, delight in their “balloons” and remind them they are loved.

We have a task to do, and the work is suffering.

“El Roi.” Our God sees, and he cares. Hallelujah. 


  • Emily Wierenga

    Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of a non-profit working in Africa and Asia.

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