Bowl of Chili
It’s Tuesday evening and I’m spent, dizzy from a full day chasing my tail, accomplishing nothing. Yep, I’m living life large on 3 cylinders futzing around the house; reorganizing my junk drawer; opening bills and clipping them smartly to their envelopes while stacking them alphabetically; updating my shopping list to include AAA batteries; straightening up the bathroom sink…updating my Facebook status and feeding the dog. All of this activity staving off the accusation that I’m a lazy slouch, none of this activity touching the ache of my soul to offer my gloriously unique gifting for the furtherance of the Kingdom today. These stop-and-go, haphazard, fretfully distracted days filled with small things that sap energy, soul and spirit are all too frequent!
Mercifully Lori calls me to dinner and I sit down to a hefty bowl of comfort food, i.e. chili topped with jack cheese, red onion, cilantro and sour cream. I’m taking my first bite as she updates me on my daughter’s weekend relational conflict with a friend saying, “You ought to read the follow-up letter she wrote to Audrey” (her out-of-sorts friend). So, I pull up my email and begin to read her letter. I didn’t/couldn’t take another bite of chili for 30 minutes.
The tears were familiar. Pouring down a historic route over my cheeks and off my chin. The tears weren’t light, they came up from somewhere deep, similar to those I shed welcoming my daughters into this world, akin to those saying “goodbye” when they each left for school in Europe or those as we danced, held their newborn child for the first time. They were very familiar… and very new. And, God shows up. Surprised He enters the scene touching, speaking, moving, stirring up emotions, memories, longings and hopes… bringing comfort, healing… hope. I was overwhelmed the waterworks of a happy man… of a blessed man, a man who could have died and gone to heaven that very moment.
Meagan’s letter in word, spirit, texture and affect blew me away. Her handling of, and speaking to her friend’s heart and soul was kind, forgiving, full of understanding, courageous, strong, inviting and authentic. Her worldview, love of God, maturity and pursuit of her friend jumped out to me. She is the person I hope to be someday.
Is there a day a father doesn’t bear some weight, a burden we’ve grown so accustomed to we hardly notice it… a question about our children’s journey and who they’re becoming and how they’ll “turn out”? It lies just beneath the waterline of consciousness surfacing from time to time. Added to this acclimatized strain we carry is another question inseparable from the former… it’s a notch deeper perhaps and it’s all about us. “How am I doing as a father? Am I screwing her up… do I have what it takes… is all this effort ‘working’… will she be everything I have hoped and prayed… is God at work?” We are often and deeply afraid of what we’ve done, are doing and will do as a parent… and the consequences!
She’s too young to get her ears pierced… right? Is Barbie a corrupting model of femininity/beauty? What do I do about the influence her “friends” are having on her? Why am I so easily infuriated? What about the music she loves, movies she watches, clothes she wears… egads! Did the time I let her cry in her crib when everything in me said to go in and comfort her wound her… or was it that fit of anger when she came home late… yikes! How about the church youth group… it’s dead! Will she know and love God intimately or be merely compliantly religious. I think I blew it with the Beverly Hills 9012487 parties… and the NKOTB concert. Was my discipline too strict or lenient? I should have emphasized school more… the guy she’s dating is a flake!#$@? Oh God… dear God come for her… come for me!
I have worried and wondered… paced the floor, pounded the ground, cried out to God, beat myself up as as a father and doubted God’s clear-strong-whispered words over the years… “Craig, your daughters… they’re mine, I’ve got them, we’re tight, we’re good. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid, don’t panic… trust me… love Me, love them… live trusting.”
And until this letter I doubted God and his words to me.
Seeing my daughter through her letter made it all very clear. My every concern about how she might “turn out” was dismissed, every worry stilled, the questions settled. God spoke into my heart, “Craig, you are a good father… look at your girls”. I was happily sobered and embarrassed that I had ever doubted him and his work in her and through me.
I could not nor is it possible to be prouder of my girls at this stage of their lives. They quite simply are beautiful in every way. Every way!
As for me as a dad… God could not, nor is it possible for him to be prouder of me. I’m his, he’s mine, we’re tight, and we’re good.
What a bowl of chili!
– Craig McConnell (from the archives)