“Have you seen my Daddy? I really need him right now!” The little blond tyke was close to tears, but, not seeing her father anywhere in the vicinity, I asked if I could help. She replied rather timorously, “I need to talk to him about the tornado. Someone said there was a tornado coming and I really need my Daddy.” It was a beautiful, starlit night and there were no storms anywhere to be seen on the horizon, so I explained that a tornado couldn’t be coming or there would be clouds and lightening and we would hear the thunder and the wind. I pointed up to the amazingly clear sky, teeming with stars, as we spoke. By the light of my flashlight, she looked at me rather dubiously and said, “I still want my Daddy.”
The occasion was a hymn sing under the stars at some friends’ place in the country. We had enjoyed making music together as the daylight faded and then wandered out to the fire to roast some marshmallows and make ‘Smores. The kids had all had their turn at roasting the puffy white bits of sugar and, bored with the fireside chat, had wandered off hither and yon to entertain themselves, apparently telling a ghost story or two, as well as throwing an imaginary storm into the mix. She wasn’t the first child to ask where her parent was and I remember thinking a couple of times, as we sat talking and the children played, how different (and scary) the world was in the dark. Evidently, the children thought so also and some of the older kids figured the darkness was a good place to frighten the younger, more gullible ones. It was a rousing success for this little sweetheart.
After her rejection of my wisdom, I helped locate her Daddy and he reassured her as well as he could that there was no tornado loose in her world this night. I found myself thinking about the big, dark world and how important are the strong arms that hold and comfort us in our confusion about its terrors, both real and imagined.
I talked on the telephone with my Mom tonight. She didn’t know who I was. As we talked, she gained a little cognizance and remembered names and places a tiny bit more. She made a couple of strange remarks about events which never happened and I could hear my Dad’s voice in the background, helping her to remember what was true and what was not. When we finished talking together, she handed the phone to Dad, saying, “Here Honey, it’s….. Oh, you talk to him!” As he came on the phone, I could hear the pain in his tone of voice and realized how much it hurts him to see her like this. But still, he cares for her day after day; preparing meals, washing laundry, making hairdresser and doctor appointments, and taking her to church. And, when she’s afraid and the dark is closing in, she has strong arms to shield her from the imaginary evils that lurk unseen.
So, both ends of life have their terrors in the darkness. I’m wondering about the time in between. Surely, there are times of fear and darkness here too. I’m convinced of it, because I’ve felt them; I’ve lived through them. You have too. The young father prays in the night as his child struggles to breathe, in a skirmish with asthma. The young wife lies awake in her too-empty bed in the dark, wondering if her husband, fighting battles half a world away, will ever return to her. The mom sits alone in her chair late into the wee hours of the morning, fearing that her teenage daughter may not remember who she really is, in the high pressure world of dating and physical attraction. The list goes on and on. We all face the dragon of fear in the dark. Even as a middle-aged man, mature in many ways, I still long for the strong arms around me and the calming voice that says, “There, there. Don’t you worry about a thing.”
Time and time again, that longing has been met in my faith. You’ll have to determine your own course, but the truth I remember is that we’ve not been given a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, and love, and self-discipline. The strong and loving arms around us enable us to extend strong and loving arms to those near us who are in need of the same comfort. No one can console someone in pain like someone who has already come through that same pain.
You can’t fool me into believing that there’s a tornado about to hit when the sky is clear! I know how to recognize the danger signs, and I ain’t afraid of that boogeyman. It’s just the other ghosts that I’m not always so sure of…
“There’s a somebody I’m longing to see;
I hope that he turns out to be,
Someone to watch over me.”
(Ira Gershwin~American lyricist~1896-1983)
“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand-in-hand.”
(Emily Kimbrough~American writer~1899-1989)