The cup’s smooth handle fit to Josh’s hand perfectly, just as it always had. Slowly, he lifted the glass – almost reverently – to his lips, anticipating the taste of the amber brew. Then, precisely at the moment the cold liquid hit his mouth, he spat it out, slamming the receptacle down onto the table. Disgusted, self-loathing swept over him.
Is this what he wanted? Really?
“Daddy, will you help me?” With eyes round in her small face, and a hint of fear Josh wasn’t sure he imagined or was actually present, his four-year-old daughter held out her doll to him. Its arm was broken.
“Sure, honey, Daddy will fix it.”
Josh gently took the article from the little girl’s hands and fit the arm back into its socket, twisting it into place. Turning his attention back to her, his heart fell. Her small shoulders shook as she sobbed; with her back to him she stood hunched over the counter vainly trying to hide her tears.
“What’s wrong baby?” he asked, rising and crossing the distance between them to squat down and put his arms around her. Feeling the tension, her resistance to him, he said with false cheerfulness, “See, I fixed your dolly – she’s all better now. Don’t cry!”
But, she only cried harder. Her tiny body quaked as he held her close, his face pressed to hers, trying to comfort her. Tears, wet and salty, streamed down her cheeks and mixed with his as he cried, touched by whatever ravaged her.
Finally, the storm abated. Pulling away from Josh, she wiped the back of her hand across her face and sniffed. He watched as her dark eyes, still luminescent with tears, measured him. He waited for her to speak; the seconds ticked by loudly from the clock overhead as they mutely stared at each other.
He couldn’t stand it any longer. Breaking the silence, Josh spoke first. Searching for the right words, he asked, “It’s not the doll, is it? There’s something else that made you cry, isn’t there?”
“Yes,” she sniffed at him, lowering her eyes to the floor.
“Why can’t you look at me? Is it something I’ve done?” Remorse filled him as he anticipated her next words. He was right.
“Daddy, you promised!” she wailed, the last word ending in a cry as she began to weep again. “You promised!” This time her words were shouted in anger as she ran from the room and pounded up the steps. A door slammed from upstairs; his daughter had retreated to the sanctuary of her bedroom.
Josh sat heavily back down onto his chair at the table, and noticed the beer glass still where he’d left it. He picked it up, walked over to the sink and dumped it down the drain, then grabbed a paper towel to wipe up the beer he’d spit out.
Is this what he wanted at the end of the day, when all was said and done? Hadn’t he changed? As Josh stood there, the sun broke through the clouds. A shaft of light coming through the kitchen window illuminated the glass he’d just emptied as if God was trying to tell him, “Yes Josh, you did. Like light in a dark place, I’m still here, here to help you.”
The fatherhood of God, thought Josh wryly, remembering his resolution to quit drinking, and to follow Christ. If God can forgive me and is willing to give me a new start this day, will my little girl? Can she trust me; will she even consider it?
Josh swallowed and rolled his eyes upward in a single heartfelt one-word prayer, “Help!” Slowly, he placed one foot in front of the other, and moved toward the stairs. He placed his hand on the smooth rail, and climbed the first step…
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