In My Father's Arms

 (Page 19)

(Author note: This story is particularly special to me in that it is the first story I ever wrote. It was originally a personal letter to my dad on Father's Day in 1993, therefore, it is also the first story in my book) 

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In the early 1960s, northern Oklahoma endured several especially bitter winters. The frosty wet flurries were a natural kid magnet, so for six snowbound and restless children, dry gloves were in steady  demand. With necessity the mother of invention, many times in place of gloves we would layer thick socks over our hands. One frigid afternoon, my brothers, sister, and I were playing in the snow-filled sandbox. They began to get cold and decided to go inside. At the stubborn age of six, I was willing to tough it out.

I was so absorbed in my play and determined to finish my snow castle, I had not noticed my socks/gloves were soaking wet. The outer layer was not only wet but had also become heavy, with little frozen pieces clinging to the ends dangling several inches past my fingertips. Having become quite awkward in the completion of my project, I removed the socks from my hands.

How much better it now seemed to no longer be encumbered by such a hindering piece of clothing. I now had full use of my fingers, giving me the creative freedom I didn’t realize was possible while wearing socks on my hands. Within minutes, however, I began to notice I could no longer feel my fingers. I could barely even move them. Bending my fingers was painful, and though I tried, I could not get my “gloves” back on. In my stubbornness, I had waited too long. I felt helpless as I stared at my stiff, throbbing fingers.

Then I saw him—my rescuer, my fixer of everything, my knight in dirty cowboy boots—my dad! I immediately burst into tears. “Daddy!” I cried. “My hands hurt so badly.”

He did not scold me for staying out too long. He did not tell me how foolish I was for taking my gloves off. The look in his eyes was that of compassion and tenderness. He scooped me up into his arms and carried me inside.

The fire was roaring in the old living room stove. Sitting there together before the fire, he repeatedly cupped his hands around mine, held them as close as he could to the warmth, and then gently closed them around my cold and lifeless hands. After a few minutes, I slowly began to feel life return to my frozen fingers. The painful throbbing had stopped, and I tested my fingers, opening and then closing them again and again.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson that day in the snowy sandbox, but there would be other times when I would again suffer the painful consequences of a stubborn self-will. The rebellious spirit of the flesh and its attempt to fill the void left from the failed promises of a self-seeking and godless world often brings bitter and lifeless results.

I have always felt the greatest strengths of a man are his tenderness and gentleness. The same calloused hands of my father that toiled unceasingly around the farm gingerly buckled my shoes and tied my bows on Sunday mornings. Those seemingly unimportant things did not go without notice.

But, the most precious thing my dad showed me that day in the sandbox was not just his tenderness and love toward me but also the tender mercy of a loving heavenly Father. I often wonder if there are those who struggle with the love and acceptance of our heavenly Father because they did not feel the acceptance of an earthly father. I am thankful for that demonstration, thus giving me a deeper, richer understanding of the one I call Father, my rescuer, fixer of everything, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Abba Father, You are our shepherd; we shall not be in want. You are our shelter, our deliverer, our comforter, and our refuge. With gentleness and tenderness, You lead us back into the fold when we have gone astray. You lift us high above our trials that we may give You the glory and exalt Your name forever. You are mighty God, Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, and Father to the fatherless, and we are Your beloved. Amen. (Psalm 23:1-6) 

Dad and me at Thanksgiving 2010.

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