Are you sure? A journey to the unknown
Are you sure? A journey to the unknown
By Joel Howard, inspired by my daughter
There we were, on our way to the emergency room at 9:45pm. Savanna had been dealing with her seasonal allergies and was unable to breathe well, causing her to throw up and cough today. I had decided with my wife that I would take Savanna to the emergency room to get extra support for her breathing situation. What I learned on the way was profound for me spiritually.
I had put her in her car seat and we set off for our trip. On our way to the car she and I both knew this was a unique experience. We looked up at the cloudy, dark sky, something we never get to do together because it is past her bedtime! I felt the holiness of the moment as I, her daddy, embraced her and we set off on our trip to the hospital. I buckled her up and we were off.
On our way as I turned on College Drive, Savanna commented to me about the scenery she saw out the window and it was profound:
"Daddy, are you sure you know where you are going?" she said in between hacking coughs. I just listened because immediately my spiritual eyes were awakened to see the connection between her comments and my own journey with the Father in dark times.
"Daddy, its dark outside," she continued. "There are big trees and it is so dark. I have never been here before!! Are you sure you know where you're going??" she asked again. She didn't really give me a chance to answer, but kept repeating her question as she took in the mystery of the moment, as if to say, "Daddy, I'm lost. We have never been here before. I do not know where you're going and that makes me want to wonder if you also are clueless. But let me ask: are you aware of what is going on? Is this new to you too? Are you surprised or scared as well?" These important questions circled in her mind and in the air of our mostly empty minivan as she and I drove into the night towards the hospital.
Little did she know that I, as her dad, had actually been to the hospital many times. Once when she was born - to this very same hospital, and twice for each of her siblings when they were born. And many times for myself and loved ones along the way.
She didn't know that I was very, very familiar with not only the hospital but also with the road we were taking. My foreknowledge of the way to get there made me fearless and confident as I drove my daughter on this very significant hour and trip. But she wasn't asking questions in order to get answers. At least I wasn't going to volunteer them.
Instead, I allowed my silence, my listening ear, and my continual leadership in her life to be a comfort to her. Kind of like when David says of the LORD, "Your rod and staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23).
It's not always the Shepherd's voice that comforts us. And we all know so well that the Lord doesn't always give us immediate answers to our most desperate questions. But he persists in leading and he is still driving. He is always listening. His silence is loving for us in our darkest times because he is allowing us space to process, to explore and to be in the pain of what we are feeling. There's something to that experience that is crucial for us.
As the night went on, Savanna received her treatment and steroid for her breathing, but I couldn't help thinking that the night was not just about her as a patient but about me as a dad also.
I wanted to surround her with my arms, draw close to her, squeeze her toes and feet, give her kisses - everything I could do to let her know I was present. And as I reflect on my passionate desire to surround her with fatherly love and a covering appropriate for the bigness of the situation, I can't help but sense my own Father talking to me about his persistent presence, quiet love and gentle affection towards me in my own times of need.
It is as if I am staring up at the sky and asking my Heavenly Father what he is thinking as he carries me out into the night past my own bedtime. As he holds me, I wonder if he also feels the bigness of this moment. As I bounce my questions off of him and doubt his holiness due to my own immaturity I wonder if his silence is intentional, because of the vast glory of the moment, giving me space to embrace life's fundamental questions. And as he watches me undergo my own redemption in life, I wonder if he doesn't also remember where I came from, and desire to cover me with his own presence and touch as a way of shielding me and reassuring me of his undying affections for me in Christ Jesus.
I wonder if he, like me with Savanna, sets me down to bed late at night after having explored the world, its newness and wonder, kisses me and prays for me - hoping for nothing but the best for my life, and caring about every detail.
"Are you sure?" is the question I ask every day as I walk with God into the unknown of his plans. Today, after my experience with Savanna, I can't help but think that his answer is a resounding "YES" - but he expresses that answer to me in more ways than just words. In his scripture he has guaranteed that all his promises are "yes and amen" for me in Christ (2 Corinthians 1), but there are countless, countless ways that he is affirming that spoken promise to me in unspoken and deep ways that only I can understand - if I will hear it.
My silence to my daughter in the car, as she brought me her deepest questions regarding safety and security and a longing to be known and led well, was only me as a father acknowledging that hers were the right questions - the questions that deserve the most careful explanations and answer.
Let us be "quick to listen" (James 1) not just to others, but to God also, and let us not assume that God's silence in any moment is a contradiction of all he has said and done for us. Instead, let us continue asking the right questions and open our eyes and ears to hear and see all the ways he will answer for us today.
As Psalm 19 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God...day after day they pour forth speech." Let us look into the night sky above us and say to ourselves, "Wow. I must be special to have a God who would take me out past my bedtime and care for me one on one." He is answering us all the time and in many ways.
Let us, you and I, rest in the loving hands of a Father who is head over heels for us and will do anything and everything to keep us safe in his embrace. Is he sure? Yes, brother and sister, he is sure!