In a melancholy mood tonight, I found my favorite photograph and spent a while not looking at it.
By that, I mean I saw the photo, but then, looking on through the lovely, placid scene, I watched a life gone by. Several lives, if one counts not only the little girl and her Daddy but also the people with whom they’ve been blessed to travel in the thirty years since the photo was taken.
It’s strange, but in the tranquil, almost Rockwellian, perspective of a young father and his beautiful daughter caught unawares gazing through a barbed-wire fence and across the meadow, I see a part of the story which I had never considered.
The tale the photo tells doesn’t brighten my spirits as much as I had hoped when I began looking for the snapshot earlier tonight.
That’s the way life is, isn’t it? Moments we once thought simple and carefree, when viewed from across the years, assume the burdens of those years and the simplicity is lost, the freedom from cares suddenly erased by time itself. In some ways though, it seems that I may have actually changed the narrative in my mind years ago and am just now seeing the truth of the vista opened before me.
Looking carefully at the photo, one may notice that the sweet tyke is smiling at what she sees. I know (because I was there) that she is looking at Dr. Weaver’s cows as they grazed in the big open field. What child doesn’t smile at such strange creatures when viewed from the safety of her father’s arms?
We did it more than once even though there is no further photographic evidence to prove it.
Thirty years ago it was, yet I still remember well the routine that led to this timeless scene.
The tall thin man leaned down and held the hand of the little blonde-haired sweetheart and they walked along the side of her Grandpa’s workshop toward the fenced meadow behind the house. Passing the garden plot to their east, she noticed there was only dirt where once the vegetables had thrived. That didn’t slow them down though. She wanted to see the cows.
Until she got closer to the fence.
The animals were some distance away, on the other side, but it wasn’t far enough. The grip of her little hand in his grew tight. He understood. Leaning down closer to her, he quietly reassured her that he wasn’t going anywhere. He reminded her that she would always be safe with him.
She believed him. But still. . .
By then, they were at the fence and he squatted down, pulling her toward his body. In a half hug, she realized her Daddy was up to the task of protecting her. She relaxed a bit and moved closer to the fence.
As one of the old cows looked up from her grazing, the child backed up again and felt his chest behind her shoulders. She leaned on one knee and smiled.
It was the smile of a child who knew safety. And joy.
But look at the picture again and tell me—can what the young man is looking at be seen? Is there a smile on his face?
I wonder—what do you suppose he is seeing? He is almost certainly not looking at the cows the little girl is viewing.
And, where is his smile?
I sit here and I think back again. It was a hard time. There wasn’t much money. The young man and his Lovely Young Lady had just had another baby. He was a joy to them, but there were hospital bills. A bigger house would have to be found. Clothes. Cars. Utilities to be paid.
The little girl is safe and care-free. Protected and loved, she has no worries.
Tonight, years removed from the event, the realization hits me hard.
So hard the tears come.
How did I miss this?
All this time. All these years.
I thought I was the protector. The provider.
I needed One.
I had One.
I just wasn’t leaning on His knee. Or resting in His embrace.
There are still scary things in front of me.
It’s not too late, is it?
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
(Corrie ten Boom ~ Dutch Christian & holocaust survivor ~ 1892-1983)
And he got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
(Mark 4: 39,40 ~ NASB)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.