It's late, I've had a hard day and all I'm interested in is dropping face first into the sweet, soft refuge of my bed...when I hear a little knock at the bedroom door. Like Lazarus being recalled from the tomb, I desperately try and recover my faculties from the brink of oblivion and manage to mumble, "Who's there?"
An imploring little voice answers, "It's me. Can I come in?"
"Sure sweets, what's the problem?"
"I'm having bad dreams and they won't go away."
She's bright and tall for her age and only a few hours ago was maintaining how grown up she was. But now she's my little girl and she's scared and in need. So it's up and out of bed, grab a robe and plod on down the hall after her.
Tucking her in I ask, "So what's bothering you?"
"Well I see these faces on the wall and they look real mean and they won't go away."
And so I say the words that parents have been using to comfort their children for generations. Soothing, reassuring, I calm her fears and then we pray together. The furrow of worry leaves her brow and I see the peace begin to soften her features. With a sigh of satisfaction I know my task is accomplished and sweet rest will be my reward… but for some reason I linger by her bed.
I stroke her hair. I talk a little. I admit to having been afraid every now and then myself. I talk about how I've learned to chase away fear with praise, thanking God for all of his blessings in my life, and praying for others. And still I linger.
Then in a voice softened by approaching sleep, she opens her heart to me. We talk about some of the things that shape the challenges along her journey from child to adult.
"What do you think about me wearing makeup, daddy? I know you think I'm too young now, but what about when I'm 13? Can I wear it then?" (Makeup was a huge thing in our family at the time.)
"Why would you want to wear it at all?"
"I don't know. Sometimes you just feel like you need to. Like it's something you have to do. I mean, I don't want to put on eye liner or anything. That just makes your eyes feel yucky, you know? But do you think I could put on just foundation?"
"Well, I can't say I know a whole lot about foundation, but I do know that you don't have to rush to be all grown up. You've got plenty of time before you have to think too much about that. You know you only get to be a kid once, after that you're an adult for the rest of your life. This is a great time in your life and you should just enjoy being a kid for now."
"I know. But I'm just thinking about it, you know?"
"I know sweets."
She lays there composed, peaceful and quiet, her eyes closed, her breathing soft and slow and for a while you think she might have nodded off when…
"Will I have to ask you every time I want to wear it?"
"Wear what sweets?"
"Well, when it is time for me to wear makeup, will I have to ask you every time I want to?"
"At first you will. Mom and I are here to help you with that. We want you to be a modest young lady and a good testimony for the Lord, not some weird painted lady."
"I know. There are some girls at school that put on so much stuff it's gross. I don't want to do that, but it just seems like it'll be a bummer if I have to ask you every time."
"I understand and I'm sure we can work something out by then."
"Yea, I guess you're right."
I bend over and giver her a little kiss on the head.
"Good night sweets, I love you."
"Good night dad, I love you too."
As I'm walking toward the door, in the softest, sweetest voice imaginable, I hear her say, "Thank you daddy."
And then I understand.
This was a "magic" moment. A moment that can't be planned or scheduled. A moment that comes without fanfare or warning. But it’s the stuff that loving relationships are built on. It's the moment that gets recounted years later with tenderness. A moment that is remembered in a time of trial and helps turn a heart to help.
You never know when that moment, so fraught with spiritual weight and significance, will come. But there's one thing for sure -- you dare not squander it. Because these are the simple moments of caring that can make such a profound difference with our children. It is in these moments that we have the opportunity to communicate spiritual value, to build trust and confidence, and to reaffirm our love and care for them. Those moments are a door of opportunity into their hearts and lives. But if we are going to seize the opportunity these moments present, we have to be sensitive to their visitation. We need hearts that are tender to the moving of the Spirit, not consumed with work, comfort or even our problems and 'urgencies.' We need to see that these times are a moment of salvation where the Lord wants to work mightily.
As I gently closed the door behind me, my heart was moved by the mercy and love of God that gave my daughter and I that moment together. And I found myself saying "Thank you, Father."