Faith Put to the Test

Asking Questions about God: Jonah Holm and John Holm

First Recorded

January 3, 2015


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Jonah Holm is a recovered drug addict who found hope in God as she embarked on the road to recovery with support from family, including her father, John Holm. In this conversation, the pair reflect on how Christian faith has helped to reshape their relationship as daughter and father.

This story was produced by David Dault at Sandburg Media, LLC.

This story is a part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a conversation series that invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives. The interview was recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

Jonah Holm and John Holm

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John Holm: I actually didn't ever think you liked me. And in some ways I came to the point where I didn't like the way I was being a father to you. But I realized that really wasn't the important part, whether you liked me or not, but whether you knew that I loved you. Yeah. And so I had to find a new way to do it.

Jonah Holm: I don't know if I understood something new about you, or if it was just that everything else was stripped away, or if it was some miracle from God. But I started to recognize that the way that you were different from me, wasn't about measuring twice before you cut or being more coordinated than I was. It was that when you were in your deepest distress, you went to God and that gave you hope. And so I thought, okay, I will try. I will try. And that was when I showed up and said, "Hey, I'm addicted to heroin. I need to drop out of college, go to rehab. And it would be really great if I could move in with you and do that." And you all were immediately supportive.

So that's the biggest thing, because then I spent the next few months saying I will do everything I can to give myself over to God, over to this hope, over to this different experience of the world. And if at the end of a few months of that...I gave God six months. And I said, at the end of that if I still want to die, I know how to do it, but I will give God that. And you became a partner in that with me, and you weren't trying to fix me anymore. That gave me the freedom to just come to you and talk, because you weren't going to give me answers about God. You were going to ask those questions with me.

John Holm: We both had to let go of old models and old definitions of our relationship that we had intentionally chosen. It also included being okay, that's not the word. It also included living with the reality that you might die. And that my not trying to fix you wouldn't be the cause of it, but I couldn't be your protector anymore. I could love you, but I couldn't be your protector anymore. And that's a very scary thing for a parent to come to that realization.

Jonah Holm: You're my dad. It feels, I don't know, it's not enough to say that you're my friend, but you are among a thousand things, you are a friend, a confidante. You are somebody who I look forward to seeing, somebody whose life I'm invested in, somebody whose calls I gladly take. And there are not many of those people. But I just look forward to talking to you, to spending time with you. You're still my dad in some of the most classic ways of, you're the person that I call when I'm in trouble. You're a person that I call when I'm trying to fix my friend's water heater and I'm struggling.

My relationship with you is so complex, and I'm so grateful because you're not just a relic of my past, which is how I think a lot of people experience their parents. You are a huge part of my present life and I'm a huge part of yours. And I am just really grateful for that. Yeah.

John Holm: Yeah. I'm just looking forward to seeing where you're going. You're doing so many awesome things in your life, in your vocation, and I just look forward to watching and being a part of that and learning from it.

Jonah Holm: I'm not sure what the future has, but I'm excited about it. I think I've learned throughout the course of all of this that I can trust that, no matter what happens, we're both in it now.

John Holm: We're both in it now.

Jonah Holm: And that's awesome.

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