I slowly lifted myself to a sitting position on the black asphalt, and hugged my legs tightly to my chest. As my skin stretched over my wounded knee another wave of pain knifed through me. It was the third time just this morning that I had suffered an intimate encounter with failure. I found that the reservoir of tears that I had once thought emptied from my two previous falls, were freshly filled to overflowing as they washed over my cheeks.
I was a mess, I knew it and I was sure that all of the neighbor kids knew it too. I imagined that I could hear them laughing at me, chiding me for failing at such a simple task. I pressed my forehead into the bend in my arm and cried out “Daa-ad!”
I felt his arms encircle me, one against my back and another arm beneath my gravel laced knees. I relaxed slightly so that he could cradle me and then flinched a little at the thought of what the neighbor kids would be saying now, especially Darik, who is nine and “oh-so-successful” at whatever I fail miserably attempting.
My dad sensed my reaction, but just held me closer as he lifted me. So there I was, a crumpled mess of scraped limbs being cradled by my dad in the middle of the street in plain sight of all of my “oh-so-successful” neighbors. Another painful reminder of my failure slashed through me as I resigned myself to the humiliation, buried my face in my dad’s shirt, and let the tears flow.
And at that moment of surrender, every other person and every other care in the universe faded and it was just my dad and me.
When is the last time that you experienced that moment when all else faded from view and it was just God and you holding each other closely?
As Christians, we speak to God’s sovereignty over all creation by calling him “King”; we speak to God’s expansiveness and infinitude by calling him “Holy”; we speak to God’s perfect judgment over the order he installed by calling him “Just”.
But in that moment that we bury our face into his shoulder, and in that moment that he holds us closer whispering words of comfort and encouragement into our lives, we call him “Father”, “Abba”, “Daddy”.
So often, in the midst of our trials and our failures, we relegate God in our lives to the stolid attribute of “Living”, as though, like our neighbors, he stands at the living room window and observes our folly, shaking his head at our foibles and the messes we make of our lives. We sense that He is there in heaven, watching and noting our mistakes, compounding our humiliation by his witness.
Still, the truth that we are the children of the Living God is just a tiny note in the margins of the epic sonnet that proclaims God as our loving Father; a sonnet which, even at the apex of its magnificence, can barely begin to explore the depth of His love and compassionate engagement in every moment of our lives.
Into our live he is writing a sonnet of love so great that He sacrificed the only thing in all of creation that He treasured, so that through that sacrifice He could cross the expanse that separated us, gather us to Him, and calm our shaking as we sob into His shoulder.
When, at last, my tears had ceased flowing and my pain had retreated to memory, my dad gently lowered me to the to the ground while holding tightly to my shoulders so that I could stand. He reached down and grabbed the handlebars of the twisted wreckage of my latest failure and righted the bicycle.
“Wow, look how far you came this time!” he said. “Try again and let’s see if you can ride all the way around the cul-de-sac, and back again!”
I looked at my bike, and then I looked down at my scraped knee, and then I looked up into the eyes of my daddy. And I found the courage to try again.
And my dad said, “I’ll be right here.”
And He is.
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