“But if you break down, I’ll drive out and find you, If you forget my love, I’ll try to remind you, And stay by you when it don’t come easy.”
–Patty Griffin, When It Don’t Come Easy
I was born a little independent. So, I have many memories as a kid of getting lost. Interestingly though, they all seem to end the same way…
The first time, I was four years old, and our family was on vacation. We went to a gigantic water park in Canada. Part way through the day, I left my dad’s side–not because I was distracted in the kiddie pool, but because my mom and older sister seemed to be taking forever to come down the water slide. Without a thought, I left my dad and little sister who were waiting at the bottom of the slide, and went to see what was taking so long. I walked up the huge hill, climbed the large stair case leading to where all the water slides began, and at the top looked into a “sea” of strangers’ faces–none of them belonging to my mom and sister. I started to get scared. A stranger asked me if I needed help but I shook my head no. I made my way down the stairs, and instead of walking down the path around the slides, I began to walk down the hill, under the slides. I started to cry, wondering in my young mind if I would ever see my parents again–until I saw HIM. My dad running under the large water slide tubes, toward me.
A year later, you would have thought I had learned my lesson. My youngest sister had just been born (count them 3 sisters–4 girls!), and we were in a Hospital in Boston to meet her for the first time. My dad took me and my other two sisters down to the cafeteria for lunch, and on the way back, I found my way over a crosswalk and into another hospital. Again, when I realized my mistake I tried to find my way back. But in the middle of the crosswalk, my five year old self started to cry. I had no idea where I had come from or where to go. A man asked me if I was OK, but I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, so I didn’t answer. I wasn’t sure what to do. Finally he said, “Is that you’re dad?”
Coming from the opposite end of the cross walk, running toward me with panic all over his face, was my dad. He had found me.
Then, at fifteen, when I wasn’t exactly lost yet trying so hard to find my footing in a school where I often felt invisible, I decided to take a drama class. My favorite memory from that class was an afternoon presentation we did on Romeo and Juliet. I, of course played…Romeo (Drama Class = more girls than guys). I told my parents about it, but figured with them both working there was no way they could come. But, just before our “audience” arrived (aka a few freshman English classes), as I was practicing my lines (Act 1, Scene 1) with “Benvolio,” again I saw HIM. Walking down the aisle in our High School Auditorium–there was my dad. I know parenting is much more complex than I can comprehend, but I do believe at least sixty to eighty percent of it is just showing up. In that moment, as a fifteen-year-old girl–my dad made me feel seen, important, and loved.
Finally, during my freshman year of college, when I had given my heart to a boy who had dyed his hair to look like flames–a boy who was giving me more pain than love–my dad found me once again. It was Christmas break, and I was not my usual self. My heart was broken, yet unwilling to see the obvious. I was new to this “love” thing, and I felt oh so lost. Until one morning, when my dad could take my sadness no more, he said the words no one else would say to me; the boy was just bad news, and I was letting him treat me badly which broke his heart. The last words I wanted to hear, yet the most needed ones. He found me in a very unhealthy place, and brought me back to a place where I could see my worth again.
As a father of four daughters, I am sure there were many moments (there still are), when my dad didn’t know how to relate to us. But what I wonder sometimes is if he remembers or realizes all the moments he has found me, helped me, and made me feel seen.
In the Bible, God often refers to Himself as our Father (and less talked about, even like a mother)–which sometimes can be difficult for us to relate to if we don’t have good memories about our parents like the ones I have shared today. We are all broken, living in a broken world–and we have all experienced that brokenness either in our families or friendships. But I believe that one of the most important things God intended to show us through our parents is how unfailing and unwavering His love is for us. In fact, Jesus uses a very powerful story of a man and his son, to clearly illustrate this for us in Luke 15:11-32.
In the moments where my dad found me in the past, he probably thought he was just doing his job as a father. What he may not have realized is that he was modeling an incredibly important truth about God for me. In the past year, I have shared I have felt a little lost as to know where God is leading me. Yet, as I reflect on my times with my dad, and as I sense God telling me He knows exactly where I am, I begin to feel at peace. Just as my dad has found me over and over, my Heavenly Father promises to do the same.
Today is My Dad’s Birthday…so I just want say Happy Birthday Dad! Thank you for always finding me, and for loving me the way you do!