IMG_6098Back in 2003 or 2004, I volunteered to write a couple of reflections for a Virginia Conference devotional called A Summer Read. One was a hymn about the sabbath called “On the Seventh Day God Rested and the other was a poem titled “Daughter.” When I wrote it, I had only been a father for a short while after the birth of my oldest daughter Ellen. Based upon Mark 7:24-37, it imagines the unfolding of Ellen’s life until she leaves home, a day that I thought at the time would come much, much less quickly than it has. I offer this as a meditation for Fathers’ Day.

Daughter

I once thought it was funny
on every wedding day
to watch the father of the bride
struggle with what words to say

to the question I would ask him:
“This woman who presents?”
after bride and groom had stated
declarations of intent.

I thought the father’s nerves were quaint
as he sweat those tiny pearls.
Then one day a doctor said to me
“Congratulations! It’s a girl!”

My world changed forever
as it did, too, for my wife.
We rearranged our existence
for this tiny, newborn life

who cried so much it seemed,
when she did not get her way.
Yet she could not speak our language.
“What do you want?” we’d say.

As time passed we grew closer;
the days became a blur
and as she grew and talked and thought,
we saw ourselves in her.

A woman from Tyre and Sidon
had a daughter in great pain
and this mother combed the streets
healing, mercy, to obtain.

She saw the man called Jesus
and called out to him for aid
yet he and his disciples
she could not persuade.

“You are not a child of Israel!”
She said, “Lord, help me, please!”
He said, “I throw not bread to dogs!”
Yet she refused to leave.

She said “Even dogs
sit at their master’s feet.
They sit beneath the table
and hope for bites to eat.”

The Lord was filled with mercy
and marveled at her belief.
The daughter freed from demons,
and the mother from her grief.

When I was young I thought
of nothing I was afraid.
But a baby in the household
caused my arrogance to fade.

For her, I fear things small and pointy,
poisonous or hot.
I fear things that I know of,
and things that I know not.

I fear things she encounters
when she’s not in my sight,
and I fear when she’s a teenager
somewhere in the night.

Recreate me like that woman,
and prepare me for that day
for the quiet in the household
when my daughter moves away.

Come to my Tyre, my Sidon
let me know your words are true,
that in her baptismal waters
I gave her life to you.