Wisdom to Make God Our Strength
By Melissa Miller
I have to confess that as a little girl I would often pretend to be asleep so that my dad would carry me in from the car or from the couch and put me to bed. Burying my head into his chest with my arms around his neck and my legs as limp as a rag doll, I remember breathing in the gentle spice of his Brut aftershave, which will to me always be the fragrance of strong, safe, dad–and of home. I have never felt a safer place in my life than being carried in the strength of my dad’s arms.
Just the other day my eight-year-old daughter was rummaging through my husband’s dresser to find just the right t-shirt of his to wear to bed. I smiled and savored the moment as I recounted how many times I wanted nothing else to wear to bed but my dad’s t-shirts because they were his and because being in bed clothed in something that was “him” made me sleep sweetly and secure.
From the earliest moments I can remember of being a little girl carried in from the car, to being lifted on his shoulders as a schoolgirl so that I could see over the crowds at a parade, to my teenage years with frizzy hair, braces, acne and lonely times where his shoulder bore my tears, to the embraces before he dropped me off at college, to him carrying me on his arm as he walked me down the aisle and later danced to “Butterfly Kisses,” to him holding my own baby for the first time in his arms, he has constantly carried me through life.
By myself, I am naturally a guilty person that loves to think of how I should’ve been or what I could’ve said, or what I would’ve done and how I’ll never measure up to what I think is the mark of “rightness.” I can be fearful and anxious, compare myself to others, and find the ways something can’t be done. But from the first times I can remember, I’ve had a real life “championer” of me, telling me how it can be done, how I am enough, that I am worthy, valued, and worth it. This has clothed me in confidence and created the safest place. It has allowed me to let go and be carried by a greater strength than my own.
My dad, almost every time he sees me, tells me how proud he is of me and always expresses the good he sees in me, how valuable I am to him, and that he loves me. There have been so many moments when life has felt unfair, when people have left, when I have no idea what I feel, where friends have moved, or it’s just plain hard to see the truth and I feel sad. My dad has the most uncanny way of drawing out my heart, listening intently as if I am the only human on the planet, empathizing in the most profound way, hugging so it melts me, and yet also gently carrying me back to what is right and good.
Life rarely happens as we plan it and there are many things that can cause me to trip, stumble, and fall. Whether was a scraped knee to a more impressive bike accident or broken bone, the memories I have of my dad carrying me through my tears is what I remember far more than the pain.
It’s the yellow post-it-notes of encouragement from him, stuck to the coffee pot in the early hours of the morning, that gave me strength to keep walking with God that I remember far more than the temporary high school crisis I was facing. It’s the voice on the other end of the line telling me that it would be OK that stayed with with me a hundred times more than whatever difficult problem over which I was distraught.
What amazes me most about him is that through the most difficult challenges of his most cruel disease, he continues to carry me. I think one of the most impressive pieces of wisdom I have gained from this amazing man, who I get to call my dad, is his strength to let me go, and let God be who ultimately carries me and us.
He would give me every one of his t-shirts in a heartbeat, but what he most cares about and through tears has implored is that he in no way ever wants the security that he provides to overshadow the ultimate rock, refuge and “carrier” that God is for me–and that ultimately God is who will carry us home.
I have always felt the luckiest and most blessed that I get to be his daughter. He is immensely humble, inexpressibly kind and gentle, selfless beyond measure, mightily wise, and the strongest man that I know. I am very grateful for his t-shirts and I will cherish the days of wrapping my arms around his neck as hard as I could squeeze, but the wisdom he has imparted and the legacy he is imprinting on my hearts and the hearts of my children to have God as my refuge are eternally profound.
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:1-2)