The Church of the Holy Jeans

I called him from my mother’s on Saturday afternoon.

The boys and I are in town for the night, Dad. I was hoping to stop by tomorrow. What time do you usually get moving?

Come when you can. I’ll make a pot of coffee, was his response.

He did not sound good, and I swallowed my lump of worry. He’s had a cold, he said.

Mom goes to the Kingdom Hall at 9:30. We can make our way over then.

I thought for a minute. I remembered Billy’s post and couldn’t help myself.

We’ll have church, I said.

He was silent on the other end.

We’ll have church, I repeated. We’ll just come as we are.

Ah, he laughed. I’ll wear my holy jeans.

As long as I’ve known him—and that’s all my life—he’s never gone. My aunt once told me that he went to Sunday school as a child. All eight of his brothers and sisters believe.

What happened to their baby brother?

I wonder these things as I drive the streets of my hometown on Sunday morning.

I don’t know if my father believes in Jesus.

All their married life it was just mom and us. Every Sunday morning, every Tuesday and Thursday evening, every Saturday morning…she would dress the four of us up in our finest and drive out the hollow to the Kingdom Hall.

He stayed behind.

Was it them? The Jehovah’s Witnesses? Did he not believe in their ways? It is a difficult path, this I know. Or…is he without faith altogether—godless and uncaring?

I don’t know. I’ve never asked.

Alcohol has been his god for so many years now. I don’t know if he can give faith to Another.

I shake off those thoughts. We head for the outskirts of town.

He had the coffee waiting when I got there. All these years we’ve shared little common ground but coffee is one. He never forgets.

It was dark. The curtains were closed, no lights on, except what radiated from the television and the computer screen. I felt my way to the couch until my eyes adjusted.

The light hurts my eyes, he said.

We settled in on the couch in the dark. My boys were quiet. They listened as we talked, watched me sip my coffee.

I thought about the post again and I began to pray.

Lord, if you want me to say something, You have to give me the opening.

How does one ask their father if he believes in Jesus? How do I step past the familiar dance of avoidance, of small meaningless talk and jump into soul talk with the one whose blood courses through my body?

I couldn’t do it.

I kept praying.

They say I only have 47% use of my lungs, he said.

My breath caught. He talked about the oxygen and how his levels never seemed to go up. He got out his pulse oximeter and let the boys take their pulses and oxygen sats.

I need to quit smoking, he said.

I said nothing. I’ve said it all before.

So I left without saying anything important at all. Except I love you. That’s new too. Somehow it’s easier to say it to this broken-down man than the man I loved and feared as a child.

We left early, so I drove the boys through downtown. I showed them the street where we lived after the divorce. The hill was smaller than I remember, the street more narrow. It was covered in blacktop patches—the perfect picture of the poverty we faced when that was our address. I didn’t drive up to where the house was. It looked too scary. A bad part of town.

We drove over the 4th street bridge and the air was filled with the mouth-watering scent of bread baking. We stopped at Tomaro’s bakery. I bought six pepperoni rolls and two loaves of fresh Italian bread. The boys both ate a roll, still warm from the oven.

I drove slow through the streets, feeling the sorrow of time gone by.

And then we hopped on Rt. 50 and headed home.

I’ll try again next time. Will you please pray? I thank you. This is the hard stuff. But He never said it would be easy.


  1. says

    I felt like I was there with you from your description. The computer was on…I wonder if he reads your blog. If so, he can’t help read of Jesus all the time through your daily life. I will pray. Love you…Lelia

  2. says

    You know sometimes I think that God just needs us to let someone know that they are loved! Maybe that was all that God had prepared to fill your mouth with on that particular day…

  3. says

    This is GOOD, Laura. Glynn’s right, you are taking your own advice circa HCB. I love that this is messy and real, yet respectful. There is love in it, and that means Jesus is in it, even if His name can’t yet be spoken.

  4. says

    I could really relate. My own father came very close last year to the end — by God’s grace, he is still fighting. Last fall, my sister and I had one of those “hard” conversations — we were praying for the right moment to speak with him, and it just happened. God is in control of your daddy too. Will pray.

  5. says

    Indeed He never said it would be easy, but He did say He’d go before us, dear one! Praying for you and your parents tonight…do not grow weary in doing good! (Gal.6:9)

  6. says

    I will pray Laura. It is the same for me with my baby brother. He believed once but wandered away long, long ago. I was always so hesitant to bring up spiritual things, but he called one evening and said he was searching.
    He is searching still, but the Lord did give me the opening. He will give you one too – or perhaps He will send another.
    We will pray.

  7. says

    Oh, I know this pain. Even the alcohol-parent pain. No one is saved on Mom’s side, and only one on Dad’s side (his sister). They divorced when I was three.

    It makes our own salvation so much more a miracle, yes? I could kiss the ground in thanks anytime over being plucked out of my circumstances and given Truth. Who can understand it? Why one and not another? We have no right to ask, since HE IS GOD. I know this. But it is still painful.

    I will pray right now, Laura.

    I always enjoy your beautiful blog, btw! Such a gift.

  8. says

    I …

    I don’t know what to say.

    I’m without adequate words here, Laura. The rawness of this post paralyzes me at the computer keys.

    But this I know: You did say the important thing. You did say the “I love you.” That’s huge. That’s important. Those words rock worlds and set things straight.

    I send you love; I send God prayers. Yes, oh yes, I pray…

  9. says

    what a beautiful writing.
    I too have struggles with a distant dad. The hole won’t fill up with this earthly search… I fill it with the Holy God…but it doesn’t fully take away the numbness…the vulnerable places inside my heart that asks…’did you ever love me?..why can’t you now?’
    I loved this writing it was real, vulnerable, and full of feelings. I felt like I was sitting on the couch with you in the dim room.
    thank you

  10. says

    This was well written. And very interesting to see where faith started in your life.

    I don’t sense from your writing that you continue to attend a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. Am I right about this? Just wondering what tradition you now connect with in your faith …

    What we think about God in general and Jesus specifically is the most important thing about us.

    “As a man thinks, so he is.” (Proverbs)

  11. says

    Praying, absolutely.
    My mom – a recovering alcoholic – not a believer in Jesus Christ – but very “religous” with her god. A topic I skirt around a lot with her. She reads the books I read (when she visits) and quietly disagrees with the truth of the gospel, reads my blogs and is happy that I have found Jesus, but rejects Him herself. I understand.
    Will pray. Much love…

  12. says

    If there’s any comfort, know you’re not alone…I think of all the times I should have…knew I should have, but just couldn’t. Why is it so hard for me to be who I want to be-who I know I should be, with the people I know the best? Why is it almost easier to share our faith with strangers than with our own family? Where do those walls come from?

    Your writing, as always, is inspiring…so touching and personal, so vulnerable, so true…

  13. says

    Saying the hard stuff to our dads…. terrifying. Just did it myself this evening. Wait on the Lord, He’ll give you the moment, the courage and the words at the right time. Blessings. Thanks for your perspective.

  14. Anonymous says

    Of the many things that stood out for me as I read this poignant post it was your returning to a place where the reality of the hill was smaller than you remembered and the street more narrow.

    My mind went to Hind’s Feet on High Places and I thought that yes, our life is so much this. Finding that the mountain or hill is not as high and difficult to climb as we once thought it to be and the way … oh the glorious way … is narrow.

    May you grow more in more in the knowledge of your Abba’s love for you and may such knowledge overtake you.

    Love always knows what to say and how to say it, Laura.

    I’m praying.


  15. says

    Oh my gosh, Laura. I’m with Jennifer — I almost don’t know what to say. Your words here are so incredibly powerful. And they hit home sharp. I’ve had the conversation with my father. I’m still having it. He and I, miraculously, are walking this rocky road of faith together. It’s brought us a closer that I didn’t ever think was possible again.

    It will happen when the time is right. The first conversation with my dad about God was terribly awkward, at best. He was defensive, and at the time, I didn’t know if I believed in God either, so I was just plain lost. But for some reason, that conversation was a beginning.

    Probably too much info here. Just want to tell you I am praying. And with you.

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