by Bethany Weaver
She was young, probably five years of age, with long, dark brown hair. She sat on the ground with her knees hugged tightly to her chest. And though she swiped at her face repeatedly with the back of her hands, her dark eyes remained overflowing with tears.
That’s where the father found his slight, gangly child. She heard him approach but didn’t look up. When he sat down quietly next to her, the girl’s small body quivered with barely-contained sobs, though she quickly turned her face away.
He sat with her for what seemed a moment and, at the same time, forever. Then he leaned in and whispered four words that dissolved her.
Sobs burst out of her throat. But instead of leaning into him, she buried her face even deeper in her knees, trying unsuccessfully to muffle the tears.
Her father moved closer and pulled her into his arms. And finally, after slight resistance, she leaned into his strong arms and wept unabashedly. For hours, it seemed, there were no words—just the crescendo and ebbing of tears as they took their toll on the small form.
At last, the weeping turned to hiccups, and her father dried her tears. The girl remained quietly ensconced in his arms. Nothing had changed, and yet everything had changed.
The ache hadn’t vanished. The sobs would not stay dry forever. But her father’s words, echoing through her heart, had calmed—at least for the moment—the storm raging within the young soul. Deep within, the girl knew no matter how often the storms ravaged her heart, her father would be there to still her with his words, his presence. And so she sat in placid exhaustion within his embrace.
Finally, as the purple dusk began to turn into a starry night, her father stood, brushed himself off and leaned down to pick up his daughter.
Her arms laced tightly around his neck as her cheek came to rest on his broad shoulder. Turning toward home, the father kissed his daughter’s forehead and one more time whispered those four words: “You’re safe with me.”
Safety. Even as an adult, I crave the safety of being cradled in my father’s arms. Such moments of pure security were all-too-easily-forgotten and misplaced as I grew up.
Months ago, this picture came to my mind as I struggled to face the uncertainties, insecurities and pain surrounding an impending transition. I sensed that craving as I wrote and prayed. And it boiled down to that phrase: I am safe with God.
True, that safety does not mean I won’t face pain or hardship or loss. Jesus told us that we will have troubles in this world. Rather, the safety of Christianity means that I can trust God to be God. As Teresa of Avila’s prayer says, “All things are passing away; God never changes.” In those words, in His unchanging character, there is an inherent security: No matter what may come, God is present, and God is sovereign.
That was the year my parents’ marriage imploded, sending shrapnel into all areas of my life. It was in those ensuing years, as the safety of my security in my parents was wrenched away, it also was wrenched away from God.
But once upon a time, such safety existed. Once upon a time, my parents could do no wrong. I remember the safety of looking up to them and trusting them without question.
Strangely enough, it was childhood nightmares that helped me to best sense that safety. I would awake terrified, with my heart beating out of my chest. Somehow, though, I would muster the courage to walk the dark hallway to my parents’ bedroom. There, my mom would pull me into bed and listen to me share my extremely vivid dream. More than once, she fell asleep as I whispered it to her (after all, she had five children and was working full-time).
But those moments beside my mom, who had just nodded off during my dream-telling, were the most secure of my life. As I heard the deep breathing of my parents, I somehow knew that if my nightmare didn’t unnerve my mom, it held no real power.
That was the memory that spurred this picture some twenty years later, when I realized anew that sense of safety is still at my disposal.
Because while I may be a grown woman, I will always be a child to God. I can never get bigger or stronger or wiser than Him. I can always look up to him and trust him without question, even though I will ask questions many times.
For he is the father who finds me, a wounded girl at heart, crying by myself. He is the comfort the world cannot offer. In him is the safety that I crave so desperately in this broken world. And in him, there is abundant access to that safety as a forever-child of God.
Bethany Weaver is a copy editor, blogger and all-around lover of words based in Lancaster, Pa. For more serious and non-serious works by her, go tohttp://bjweaver.wordpress.com.