Have you ever experienced one of those moments when your emotions overwhelmed you in a time you would never expect them to do so? That happened to me last night while I was lying in bed with my wife and daughter. I found myself extremely sad. Along with the sadness, I felt a sense of embarrassment, assuming if someone knew what warmed the tears in my eyes, he or she would find the cause extremely silly. The event seemed so out of place at the moment that I did not even mention it to my wife, maybe for the concern I might just lose my grip entirely if I spoke of the reason my heart was melting in my chest.
“Uh-oh, Mommy…. Uh-oh, Daddy…” I hear these phrases uttered from my daughter’s lips more times in a day than I care to count. Usually, Audrey voices her concern with this phrase when she drops something, bumps her head, or the like. In other words, she is recognizing, at nineteen months, a mistake, something that should not or does not have to be, “Uh-oh…” So there we lay, the three of us in the bed, because Audrey is ill and cannot find comfort. She is tossing and turning, and I cannot do anything to help. That was bad enough, but what happened next absolutely broke my heart.
As she tossed and turned, she whimpered, her congested chest and sinuses making lying down in any position uncomfortable. Then she tugged at her ears and said, “Mommy, ears… ears, Mommy…” It was obvious that she was in pain. Maybe the congestion was taking its toll on her sinuses so much so that it was putting pressure on her ears. It might have not been related to her sickness at all. She is, we think, also cutting here two-year molars, just adding insult to injury. Whatever the cause, she was suffering. In the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal. All babies fall ill sometimes, and they all cut teeth. But it was the reaction of her innocence that broke me down to sadness and even anger if I am honest.
“Uh-oh, Mommy… Uh-oh, Daddy…” As she tugged on her ears, she kept expressing her feelings with the phrase, “Uh-oh.” Think about the word choice. She knows “ouch,” and she also knows how to express pain by simply crying. Instead of choosing to say, “Ouch, Mommy… Ouch, Daddy,” instead of simply crying, she chose to say, “Uh-oh.” In other words, “This pain I feel is not natural. It is a mistake. Something is simply wrong with this situation.” I am not being overly sensitive here. I know my daughter, and I believe at the depths of my being, this is what she was communicating. As I said, in the light of all the real suffering in the world, this was nothing: A little Tylenol, and presto! She feels better. But the simple fact that she hurt isn’t the rub here; is it?
As elementary a level as it might have been, my daughter came to recognize and express the human condition in her little, heart-felt, “Uh-oh.” She knew that the pain she was feeling was not right. It did not have to be so. What breaks my heart all the more is that, while she recognizes it does not have to be so, she does not know why it is now the case that it is so. While she feels it in her being, she still, in some years to be, has to come to know our fall, a reality I do not want her to come to know. She has to learn of her exile from Eden. My heart melted in the knowledge that this is just the beginning of my daughter coming to know that all is not right in the present reality, and anger even filled my heart as I realized that sin is so pervasive that it will not leave her alone with a cold and tooth ache.
It took some time of real grief and anguish, but oh the joy that continues to fill my heart when I realize she will also hear the good news of Jesus Christ and His love for her. No one can take that away. The cruciform heart that led Christ to the cross, which is the same heart at the core of the Father and the Spirit as well, loves Audrey in her brokenness, like this heart loves every child born into this broken world, and one day, when she chooses Him for her Lord, her little “uh-ohs,” will become, “halleluiahs.”
I know this: As my heart melted in my chest from Audrey’s little “uh-ohs,” God’s heart melted as well. I am a father, but He is the Father. The goodness dimly reflected in my love, shines forth from Him at every moment. What my fatherly love draws to the surface of my broken heart is already at the core of His. In her little cries, I am sanctified, becoming more and more like my heavenly Father. My selfish heart fades away, as all my concern and love is lavished upon Audrey. God hears our cries, but He need not be moved to tears to be pulled from selfishness into outwardly focused love. This is just Who He is, and it is who He is making me in the most unexpected ways.
I can only hope that my heart would continue to bleed in love for the hurting children of the world, the hurting children in all of us. It is in the furnace of this love, the love afforded to us by His grace, that we are purified. As much as it hurt, I am glad that I was not too obtuse to hear the depths of her little “uh-oh.” It was not merely a recognition of pain, but of hurt on a deeper level, a recognition that not all is right. I can hardly wait for the day that I share with her the love that calls her out of this reality into His great adoption.
Lord, continue to sanctify me unto entirety through the little “uh-ohs” of the world. Amen