Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. March, 2000.
We asked for a crib. They delivered a cage. It wasn't much bigger than a suitcase and had bars on the sides. We both looked at it and knew this would not be the place our little girl would sleep on her first night with us. My first job as a Daddy would be to construct a make-shift sleeping cubby in between the beds of this little hotel room - in the middle of a communist country. Our American phobias of germs and airborne disease probably pushed me to overdo it; I built a clean room in between those beds. It didn't matter though. She had been in it for less than a minute before her little cry pushed this first-time Daddy into Seal Team Six mode. I grabbed her and placed her between us in the bed.
She stopped crying and did something we will never forget. She looked at Lisa, stretched out her tiny arm and gently touched her face. Then she turned to me and did the same, glancing back and forth. Arms outstretched with a reach of about 12 inches, we were a family.
Hi, Mommy. Hi, Daddy.
Here we are, Lord. Of all the places to start our family, you chose this little hotel tucked on some obscure street that I can't pronounce, in a country that has known vast amounts of loneliness, heartache and brokenness. This moment. These little hands. These tears… running with thankfulness and joy.
How do I freeze this moment? How do I capture this joy and grace and keep it from spilling?
The clock was running and I couldn’t.
Last night I sat in the passenger seat of our 4396 pound death machine (also known as a "Honda Odyssey") as that same little girl took the wheel for another round of learning not to kill someone (also known as "driving"). First, let me say this: She's amazing. She is doing so well and we couldn't be more proud of her.
Yet I still found myself trying to do the same thing: to press on the brakes of life. There's only one problem. Our van has no brake pedal on the passenger side - though I press on it repeatedly with force. The same is true of life.
One of our favorite movies is "Dan in Real Life" starring Steve Carrel. His oldest daughter is desperate to drive and he is as desperate to keep her from it. She persists in asking, finally laying down the truth to her Dad: "If you don't let me try, I'll never learn." His response is hilarious, but sums up my heart on the matter: "But if I let you try, you may die."
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. - Psalm 139:16
I can't stop the clock. There are no Joshua 10:13 moments to be had in this life (that I know of), where the Lord will cause the sun to stand still. Our little ones are already on the edge of the nest. Soon they will leap and all I can do is trust in the divine stroke of the Author. His Word, penned across their pages of eternity.
I will press my heart to the floorboard of faith, looking to the One who knit us together in the first place. Only He could reach 9126 miles around the world to connect our hearts to this fiery little girl, who can only live life at 110 mph. He has written down all the beautiful days of her life.
It is His arms… stretched across a beam, that hold us together. His selfless act - the very definition of love and family. Stripes of red, revealing the lengths to which He'll go to save us. Both the creator of time and the solution to its irreversible effect.
Grace has brought me safe thus far. Grace will lead me home.
I'm counting on it.
In the meantime, I will wear a hole in the carpet on the passenger side floorboard, with my seatbelt securely fastened.