The Gift of Questions – A Father’s Day Reflection

By Jessica Wolstenholm

I recently exchanged emails with a friend whose father passed away not too long ago.  The last line of his email struck me; “Continue to appreciate your dad.  Time on this earth is short.”  For many, Father’s Day is a painful reminder of just how short time on this earth is.  For others, it is an encouragement to be intentional, as we still have time together to show our dads and our husbands how thankful we remain for their guidance and love.


We all have different ways of showing our gratitude.  On holidays, such as Father’s Day, we often exchange cards or gifts.  But, if you are anything like me, you find yourself in the card aisle year after year wondering if your words really are enough.  


To appreciate something means to grasp its worth, value, or significance, and finding the right gift or words to do so can feel futile at times.  This year, while I did purchase a small gift and cheesy card for my dad, I decided to try something a little different.


“What if,” I thought to myself, “I give my dad the gift of questions?”


I explained this idea to my dad.  The aim is not to interrogate my dad.  I do, however, wonder what would happen, or what I would learn, if I asked a handful of questions and offered a listening ear.  I want him to know that I appreciate all he has done for me, but I also want him to know the great value I see in his story.  I want to honor his story.


We all want to be heard.  We all want to know that our story matters.  Questions have the power to validate our own story, while also fostering vulnerability and connecting us to the stories of others – they dare us to go beyond the threshold of superficial existence.  


There can be intentionality in the questions we ask and in the way we listen to the answers.  In her book entitled Listening for the Soul, Jean Stairs discusses the unique journey embarked upon by soul companions – those who are “in relationship in order to listen for God’s presence in [one another’s] lives.”  


What if, this year, we ‘soul-companioned’ with our fathers, or our husbands, by setting aside time to ask intentional questions and actively listen to their responses.  What if we discover new ways in which God has been at work in our fathers’ journeys, and in that of our husbands, that we did not previously know?  


What questions would be helpful to begin with?  That is entirely up to you; however, if you don’t know where to start, think about beginning with questions found in scripture.  I once had a profound interaction with a friend who effectively created space for me to think about God’s love for me, and ponder the validity of my story, by asking questions specifically found in scripture. 


The questions posed to me were, “Who are you, and where do you come from?”  These two simple questions, found in Joshua 9:8, created the space for me to enter into dialogue with God about his definition of my identity.  So, what if we started with those two questions for the father figures in our lives?  Will you join me in grasping the value and significance of our fathers’ stories by asking questions and discovering God at work in their own personal narrative?



Originally published on June 21, 2016