This image is of my daughter taking a bow after dancing to the song “I Will Follow Him” in a talent show at our church in October of 1995. I pulled this from one frame of a shaky and out of focus video of the performance, shot by a very poor videographer (me), using a video camera that was old and tired even then. The video’s quality has not been helped by its later conversion from VHS to DVD and then (recently) to MP4.
Despite the faded and poor quality imagery, my memory of her performance that day is sharp and clear, and always will be. She was only six years old at the time. She selected the song by herself and used what she’d learned in her Ballet lessons to choreograph the dance on her own. And, she selected her outfit for the performance – a red “twirly hoop dress” – all by herself, too.
She did a fabulous job, and kept her composure even when an excited toddler ran on to the stage during the dance. The congregation let her know their appreciation with a rousing ovation and cheers. She did great. I was a very, very proud father that day.
But, it is also a memory tinged with sadness. A few years later, our relationship was destroyed in the death of my first marriage: I was shut out of her life without any choice or voice in the matter, and know almost nothing of her life since. I doubt that this rupture will ever be healed.
I had to say Goodbye to my daughter, or at least to the thought of her as my daughter. I had to admit to myself that it was in her best interest and my own to let go of this relationship that was once so central to both our lives. I had to admit our relationship would never again be what it was. I had to let her go.
And so now I focus on the wonderful times we had together as father and daughter, including this dance. I know she has changed and grown a great deal in the years since. I often wonder how she’s doing, where she is, and hope and pray that she’s having a safe, happy, stable, and fulfilling life.
This morning I’m reflecting on how our relationship with Christ is a bit like this: our relationships with God have never been what they could have been. We would have done far more to preserve and enhance that relationship, if only we had known where the path we were on would eventually lead. And yet despite all that has happened, God still loves us and will never abandon us. God sent us forth out of Eden knowing the pain and loss we would face, and knowing we didn’t know. God’s love and concern for us caused God to send us Christ, and through Christ the Holy Spirit, so that our relationship would not remain broken forever. God loves us in spite of all the pain, loves us despite our flaws and failures; and always will.
My relationship with my daughter has been severed, and I cannot change that: I’ve had to say Goodbye; and I regret deeply that I did not do more to protect her when I still had the chance. But, I know she is loved and cared for by her Father in heaven. And so, despite the grief and loss, I am comforted; as I pray she is as well.
We may never meet again in this life, but my memories of her will never fade. And, I will always be proud of her and love her, just as she is.
John 14:15-21 “The Promise of the Holy Spirit” (NRSV)
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