Every day we drive my wife and I drive our daughter to and from school. Plus, I completely enjoy the car time with my daughter. Sometimes we are silly as we drive. Other times we study spelling words. And other times, we are simply quiet, taking in the sunshine and newness of the day while trying to wake up. When we get to school, she runs off to the unorganized mob of 5th and 6th graders waiting for the bell.
In the morning, the school parking lot is a bit chaotic. Everyone jostling for the prime place to deliver their pre-teen cargo to the school yard. Impatience reigns supreme. No rule is left pure. One example is the bus lane. At the beginning of the year and almost weekly, the principal states that parents dropping off and picking up students need to stay out of the bus lane. It is for buses. That's why it is called the bus lane. Not very difficult to grasp, in my opinion. Yet, nearly every day a parent flies down the lane at light speed so they can drop off their kid and avoid the long lines in the designated drop off areas. It is a microcosm of how messed up I think we really are as a people--thinking we deserve something more than the rules and order provides, trying to beat out the next person with selfish efficiency.
I do what I can to avoid the chaos in the parking lot. I proceed with caution to one of the lesser congested areas and pull in a spot next to a teacher's truck that is always poorly parked. To make things easy, this is also where I pick up Hannah. She knows that if I'm the driver, I'll be somewhere in that section where I dropped her off. If her mother is picking her up, she'll be across the way. Its a good system.
Unfortunately, that system failed today. I was in my normal area. I was a few parking spots east of where I normally am, but I was in the appropriate section like normal. However, there was no Hannah.
Understand, that with every eleven year old girl, there is a routine. It goes like this--the bell rings releasing the Kraken to escape the bowels of the school. They spread like ravenous beasts to the buses and their parents cars. Then, the parental units and guardians of said beasts race out of the lot like there is a zombie apocalypse. In the matter of 5 minutes, over 400 students and teachers vanish into suburbia. As all of this is going on around us, my daughter and her friend Zoe leisurely exit the school. They connect at their lockers following the last bell. They walk out together chattering along the way as they proceed to the space of chaos where Zoe's mom parks. (She's brave--she goes to the main entrance.) This process easily takes up to 5 minutes, if not more.
Today, however, Hannah didn't show up. I looked in my rearview mirror to the abyss that normally holds Zoe's family minivan wondering if they were standing there laughing and giggling. At this point, I am not too concerned. They are pre-teen girls. Slowness compounded by girl talk equals what seems like an eternity.
After a few more moments of sidewalk scanning, the freakout meter in my brain began to work. It was time for me to to get out of the car and go looking for her. Normally that is a no-no. To keep the cool/under the radar factor in place, I must stay in the car, lest we make pick up time be like primary school and force unwanted attention onto our offspring. I was beginning to be concerned, so the cool dad bit was tossed.
Fortunately, as soon as I stepped out of the car, I spotted my daughter on the sidewalk with a teacher. From a distance, I could tell she was crying. Trying to keep my dad awkwardness on the down low, I shouted and waived at her so she would see me. Unfortunately, there was no relief or joy when she saw me. She continued to cry as she walked towards me. As she got closer, she began to sob. For a dad, it was heart wrenching. I'm the dad. I must solve everything!!! I hugged her for a moment then asked what was wrong. Through the sobs, she shared that she thought I had forgotten her or that I had been in an accident because I wasn't there, even though I was. She'd been waiting for me, while I was there all along.
It took almost the whole car ride home for her to calm down. Even in my presence, relief and peace were slow to come. Even as I assured her that I am the most trustworthy thing ever besides Jesus in her life, there was no relief.
Later this evening, while we were driving to Ohio for the holiday, my mind played back over the scene at the school. How could she not have seen me there? To add to the mess of that moment, Hannah didn't realize that she had left her clarinet at the school till we had driven all the way home. That led to more frustration and more tears. It simply wasn't a good afternoon.
Here is the humbling/learning part of it all. Like my daughter, I've had rough couple of days in my life. Things simply aren't playing out the way I would want them to play out in a few areas of my life. Its nothing that I have control of, yet have to deal with the consequences of. In those moments, life is weighty. So weighty, that it kept me up on Monday night--thinking, praying, and journaling. In those late hours, I had an aha moment where everything seemed to finally make sense--where peace was able to reign in my soul again.
Tonight as I drove, my mind connected the two. All too often, we as Christians stand on the sidewalk of life, completely overwhelmed because we don't think our God has shown up. For whatever reason we cannot see him. He's not there in the parking lot like we think he is supposed to be. Yet, He is.
Hannah thought she had looked all over and didn't see me. Yet, I was right there, a few spaces up from the bad parking teacher. Even when she saw me, there was little relief.
How similar we are. In my life I can continually be looking for God, wondering if he will ever show up in the things that matter to me. All too often, I find myself asking rather franticly, "Where are you?" Those are not good places to be. Even more, in the process, we freak out, losing ourselves in the fear of emptiness that we feel.
What is the point? We are no different than overly emotional pre-teens? Maybe. I think there is a little more to it.
My daughter has been learning her whole life about how steadfast and trustworthy her dad really is. I do everything I can. I will do everything I can to be perfection for the girl so she learns to trust in me. I want her to rely on me, on the good that I strive to be in her life. The way she learns that is by being around me, engaging with me, and having moments like today.
How are we learning about the perfection of God's steadfast and trustworthiness? Do we only rely on him and lean in when there is a crisis? When else should we be learning? Are we making time to study Him and learn about his nature in the easy times, when we can see that he is there in the car in the lot, right where he is supposed to be?
Every day I am Hannah's father, I come to realize there is more that I don't know and more that I need to learn so I can be the best for her. She is my child. She deserves the best. I want the best for her. I will give everything I am so she can have it, just like God the Father does for us.
Let us never stop learning about who God is. Let us continually lean on His perfection.