My daughter, Mary, walked through the darkness of the front yard and driveway and up into the cramped space where I worked. She hopped up onto the step of the trailer and hurled herself onto the back seat of the boat. She carried a spiral notebook with colorful stripes on the cover which I quickly noticed was the journal she kept.
"What are you doing, Daddy?" she asked.
"Just making a mess," I said. I never really looked up and now in retrospect I'm sure my response communicated little interest in furthering the conversation. I didn't even ask her what she was doing.
She moved the process along. "Guess what I'm doing?" she now asked.
"What?" was my curt response.
"Writing poetry," she said.
"Oh, that's nice," I replied, still fuming at my mechanical failures with the wires. I wanted to just finish up and get to a point where I could go inside. "Shouldn't you be getting ready for bed?" I inquired, still keeping my head low and avoiding eye contact.
"Well, I wanted to come out and show you the poem I wrote. It's about you," she pronounced.
Suddenly, she had my attention. I immediately sensed the need to drop down on my knees and beg forgiveness from God above.
"Can I read it to you?" she asked. I carefully put down the twisted puzzle of wires and connectors in my hands and looked at her intently. There in the quiet of our old, musty garage she bashfully read her piece. She spoke the words quickly as if to hasten the end of a peculiar anxiety she felt about the vulnerability she was exposing to her father. It was sweet.
"Read it again," I said.
"Oh, it's not that good."
"Please, Mary," I begged. Feigning reluctance, she read it again, only this time slower with subdued nervousness from having completed one performance.
When she finished she offered an odd proposition. "You want to throw the football in here?" she asked.
"Sure," I said knowing what she really wanted was to feel a connection doing something she knew I liked. She wanted attention. She wanted nothing more grand than time itself. She wanted to feel my faithfulness to her and know it was true. We stood there for a few minutes in the crowded garage with little space for us to stand passing the small, rubber football between ourselves.
That single bag is usually how they appear. Her stuff was in a simple white trash bag adding further insult. The sum of her four year old life lay there in that solitary heap. I've always hated the notion of that one bag being the lone tether connecting a child to the broken past of innocence lost. I wanted to burn everything in it and start over.
I knew a few things they both shared, however. Both looked for attention. Both searched for time and connections with those they loved.
Mostly, both searched for faithfulness from the men they knew should love them most.
Psalms 116:6 NIRV
Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from him.