We used to have a set of those couches that probably should have had plastic on them — the kind that are better to look at than to sit on. They were in the living room, where no one really lived in my childhood home.
We sat in that front room and dented those couches that went right back to their original shape when we left and filled the air with the kind of words that are safe. My daddy was safe for me, mostly because I was not all that different than he was. He saw himself in my eyes and in the turbulent emotions which came early and couldn’t quite be explained by adolescence. It was the Welter in me, I suppose. He knew it because he saw it in himself first. This scene was a regular occurrence as I went from child to young woman.
His familiarity calmed me. He did what daddies are supposed to do. He wrapped safety around his little girl. He anchored me.
And then there was that day I pedaled home from Laura Faist’s house only to find him slumped on the couch. It’d be the last time I think I ever pedaled like that, carefree. Because now my daddy was broken and we had no idea in that one afternoon just how impaired his body would be. I didn’t know that this one day was the beginning of days and months and years to follow where things with my safe-dad would never be quite the same again.
So I did what little girls do when their safety is taken. I created my own. ‘Cause a girl needs safety, ya know, and if she’s not going to get it from one source she’s gotta be resourceful.
When my daddy’s world got tilted — this man of strength and zeal with a world-changing heart whose body no longer served these sides of him — I, too, tilted. I didn’t notice it at the time, but there was a marked shift from the sparky little girl who felt safe to venture out because she had those strong arms as an anchor … and the young adult I slowly became.
Order became my new safety.
I’m not gonna let this world tilt again was my mantra. I wasn’t perceptive enough to think it, but instead I lived it. And with great force. I ordered nearly every corner of my world and that order became my anchor.
Now the strange twist is that during that time, I came to know God. I grew in love for Him as I became more aware of His love for me, but that growth was stunted.
I wasn’t letting go of my anchor.
I’d not only grown to know order, but I began to believe it was a part of who I was.
Fast forward twenty-two Augusts and my belly is bursting out of all those maternity clothes that are supposed to last for 40 odd weeks and my “personality” — you know, the one who was “made for order” — can’t quite wrap itself around this life I’m living. I hadn’t even birthed that fifth child and I was sweating over the lack of order in my home. That same corner collects grass clippings that velcro themselves to bare African feet. Every day. It’s only clean for five minutes after it’s swept. And my windows are permanently fingerprinted. I sit down to read a book and thirty minutes and four interruptions later I’ve read a sentence. And where in tarnation is that library book? Lost again. Seems I’m paying dues to become a board member of the library these days.
I used to be able to check things off my list.
Then enter baby and 10 diapers a day and his body and mine leaking fluids that make for four more loads of laundry per week. All their hearts need healing and his bum needs changing and where did that precious order go?
So I write as I process. This all is so fresh. Twenty or so years later the Lord hasn’t forgotten that day when a piece of my fancy-free childhood was taken. He gave me chaos again, but this time with twenty-two more years of experience and conversation with Him by which to address it.
You know what I’m finding? That order was meant to be a part of me and not the whole of me. What I, for so many years, labeled to be my personality was really a self-made crutch that kept me from leaning deeper into His chest.
He’s spent twenty years preparing me to know Him as safety and He’s re-constructed what I might consider to be chaos all so that I wouldn’t live a for a longer lifetime out of that wound. I get to do it again.
I get to bike home from Laura Faist’s house and find him all slumped on the couch and now lean heavy and hard into the God who is strong enough to hold me when my world tilts.
I get to do it again.
Except this time that bike ride is the walk down the stairs at 7am when the kid requests start pouring and the cabinet door breaks and I pass three sets of fingerprints on the wall to get there. It’s the little girl melting in my lap as she processes her own hurts, all while the baby fills that diaper again beside me with a grin.
And my earthly daddy? He taught me how to sit on the couch with God. All those times he patiently received my quivering lip and heard my torrent of emotions were preparations for the lifetime of conversations I’d have with the God whose body broke while on earth, too, but unto even more life for me.
My once-safe daddy prepped me for the day when he couldn’t be safe anymore. He gave me the best gift he ever could have.
The tenderness of God becomes real when our precious anchors get loose and we’re drifting. That terrifying moment could turn glorious if we stop long enough to look at His face and consider Him near.
God walks us in and over those wounds, those hurts, those “this better not happen again” or “I don’t know what I’d do if this ever happens” — sometimes again and again — until we see that the valley of the shadow of death looks a whole lot different when we are close enough to feel His pulse.
Are you there, too? Walking through that same valley — with different surroundings and different people but the same emotions swelling inside of you?
Maybe this time it’s meant to be different.
Maybe this is the time where you lean close enough that this brush you have with Him becomes more significant than the circumstance itself?
Maybe this is the time where you press pause on responding and reacting the way you’ve done hundreds of times and sit down with Him and ask: “Daddy, I want to feel Your pulse here. I want to know You as so near.”
In my late thirties I’m getting my pig tails and wild-fired spirit back. Right in the middle of the chaos.
Because in my late thirties I’m finding Him to be the safe God.
So glad I got to do this again.
For Your Continued Pursuit: Hebrews 6:19-20 | Psalm 23:4 | Psalm 4:8 | Psalm 91:1-16 | 2 Corinthians 3:17
Pictures compliments of Mandie Joy.