Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Daddy's Champion - Austin

Many recent efforts to write have seemed to go nowhere. Other projects are getting done, but the magic of creating with words seems elusive. Yet several things have caused me to reflect deeply on God’s unconditional love.

There is one word-picture that has played in the back of my mind for a number of years. It is not a flattering word-picture. A part of me would rather I didn’t fit it. Yet another part of me embraces the picture, and runs to the Father, the Daddy, for a hug. I trust this will resonate for at least a few readers – especially in those times when you feel unlovable.

Daddy’s Champion

“Johnny’s walking!” Mommy brushed hair away from her damp forehead as she gave Daddy a hug.

Daddy feels as proud as if he had carried this baby for nine months; had gotten out of bed every time Johnny cried, and changed every diaper. I mean – he’s a regular guy. While his wife was feeling like a blimp and complaining about backaches, he was strutting around with a Look what I did smirk. He’s a regular guy in other ways as well. He has changed diapers a half dozen times, and he has gotten out of bed for Johnny once or twice.

Johnny’s diaper sags and a grin puffs chubby cheeks. “Unh. Unh,” he crows as he holds out his arms to Daddy.

Daddy squats on one knee, making ‘manly’ noises. For some reason, Mommy doesn’t share his delight in teaching Johnny to belch.

Mommy leans against the counter, threatening with a wet dishrag. But she’s beaming – although she has changed fourteen diapers today, and scraped the peas off the floor, and done laundry, and made supper, and read a story six times, so she’s a little frayed around the edges.

Johnny rocks back and forth, straining to reach Daddy. His diaper rocks the most, heavy and sagging, compliments of the last three bottles of juice.

A foot moves. A clumsy little body lurches forward. A startled expression plays across a chubby face. Daddy cheers so loud the cat runs and hides. Johnny plops down on his diaper.

Daddy’s breath catches. His eyes fill with tears. He bites his lip and turns guiltily away from his wife’s gaze.

Mommy leans forward as the cloth falls from her fingers. She knows Daddy feels a pain that squeezes his chest so tight he can’t breath. She knows the name for his pain is LOVE. But he’s a man. He thinks he’s not supposed to cry. And this love snuck up on him. It caught him when he wasn’t looking.

She bends and picks up the dishcloth, smiling through her own tears. She will protect Daddy’s secret.

Daddy grabs Johnny and hugs him so tight that he gasps a protest. Little arms wrap around his neck and squeeze back fiercely. A slobbery kiss mingles with the tears wetting Daddy’s cheek.

A tell-tale wetness on Daddy’s arm and a certain distinctive odour bring a comic distortion to Daddy’s face.

“What d’you think, Champ? Do we need to call Mommy or will a clumsy old Dad do?"

Johnny clings to Daddy’s neck.

Mommy hears a burp and Daddy’s laugh from the bathroom. “Why, that was almost man-sized. And oooo. . . what’s this?”

Mommy can picture Daddy’s face just from his tone.

“You’ve been saving up all week just for Daddy? Whoo-ee. What a stinky-pants you are. How come we love a guy like you? ... Hey! Don’t get your feet in it.”

Mommy sneaks to the bathroom door and stands silently laughing, tears streaming down her face.

Johnny is blissfully unaware that a dirty diaper makes him less cuddleable. He just knows it is uncomfortable, in a squishy, burning way, and there is a hug after the cleanup. For Johnny, that is enough. He doesn’t analyze love. He simply basks in it. And he gives love in total abandon. Strangling hugs and juicy kisses can bring Daddy to tears in seconds. Johnny does not know he holds unique power over this man who has never learned to cry. He can’t earn Daddy’s love, yet somehow, he draws love from depths Daddy doesn’t even know exist.

Like most fathers, Daddy has sometimes interpreted certain penetrating odours as meaning, Johnny, go find Mommy, rather than, Johnny, you’re my very own special treasure and I love you.

But God never turns his back when something smells in your life or mine. He reaches out a hand to lift us. He wipes tears away. He grabs us in His strong arms and hugs us when we don’t feel very lovable.

He sometimes whispers, I love you, like the most special secret in the world. At times He shouts, I LOVE YOU! like He wants the whole world to know. He cheers when we get up one more time than we fall down, and take one more step towards Him.

Have you ever felt love that takes your whole inner being for a few seconds and squeezes it? It is love that literally aches. Can you imagine sustaining that love for eternity? Then you have a glimpse of the scope of God’s love for you.

My adult pride chases several self-portraits. None of them show a toddler with a dragging diaper. But somewhere behind the wishful thinking, a little child hides with some rude smells in his life. He has grown past the innocence of infancy. He is afraid of a scolding. He has trouble believing anyone could really love him. So he hides. But he is starving for a hug, while a Father aches with love and stands with open arms. Once in a while, he is smart enough to run into those arms.

Brian Austin

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