Monday, June 16, 2008
"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
I took my dog through a car wash tonight. My wife and daughter were both in bed (one sick the other an infant), the Lakers had just stretched the series to game 6, and wasn't even close to tired so I figured I'd go for a drive. Duke loves to ride in the truck so I took him with me. I hadn't planned to get the truck washed but I drove by and the truck was dirty so I figured why not. I let Duke in the cab and settled in with my milkshake (I love having a milkshake in a car wash, weird but true). It became obvious pretty quick that I wasn't going to be able to enjoy the milkshake.
I turns out my big boxer dog is a sissy. As soon as the wash started he freaked out. He laid in the back floorboard for a while and whined, then barked and pawed the window, then just paced back and forth. He ended up on my lap watching the horror out the window. During the soap cycles he watched nervously as the machine moved down the truck. During the rinse cycles he laid with his head on my leg and growled deep down in his chest. When the wash was over I couldn't get him out of my lap so I pulled out of the bay and opened the door. Usually when you open any kind of door Duke is out in a dead run, but this time he just sat up on my lap sniffed the air and growled. He would raise up like he was going to jump and then loose his nerve. After a few minutes the lure of fresh air and open spaces became too much and he took the leap. You should have seen him run once he hit the ground. Not from anything or to anything he just ran because he could - because he loves it. He wasn't afraid anymore, he was free.
As I watched him run around the parking lot I couldn't help but think about how similar I am. I do the same thing all the time. God puts me in a situation I'm unfamiliar with or does something I don't understand and I do the same thing. It seems like when I'm not sure what to feel I just run through them all until I find one I can handle. Most of the time, like Duke, I settle on a combination of fear and anger.
This being Father's Day I'm sure you know where this is heading. That's where I was - afraid and angry. For years after dad died I didn't do church on father's day. I played golf, drove through the mountains, slept in - anything to avoid going to church and listening to some preacher talk about what a great father God is. Last year was different. Kyla was pregnant and I was technically a dad. I had to go. I'm glad I did. Not because I got to stand up and be recognized, because I had the opportunity to share my story.
Several weeks before last father's day I ordered a poster from a website where I get a lot of my favorite tee shirts. It is a picture of a Bible opened to Jeremiah with 29:11 underlined. I didn't get it because I like the verse, I'm not sure if I even read it before I bought it. I got it because I thought, as a Christian, it would be good to have a poster like that in the house and it was only a dollar. Several days after I put it up I was having a particularly bad day. Father's day was so close people had begun to plan for it and I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to go, but I didn't feel like there was anyway around it. I sure didn't feel like a dad. I came out of the nursery and as I rounded the corner into the den the words or Jeremiah jumped off the wall at me, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper not to harm. Plans to give you hope and a future." I that moment I heard God as clearly as I ever had or have since. I heard him say, "You know that I will take. Now know that I will give, that I am good."
Its difficult sometimes for me to remember my dad the way I want to. The images of the last several weeks of his life a so terribly powerful that they often overshadow the previous twenty years. I can see him in that hospital bed sick - weak and yellow with his hair all fallen out. That's the memory I most often have of my dad. However, I find that when I'm doing something I love (especially if its something that he loved) all the other memories of him come rushing back. When I play or watch basketball I can see the first video he ever shot of me dunking in a game. I got a steal and was in front all by myself and he got so excited he watched with his eye and not the camera and missed it. I can hear him yelling and then explaining to the camera how great it was and how he couldn't believe he didn't get it on tape. Every time I take off in an airplane as soon as the wheels leave the ground I can see his smile. His face bright with barley controlled excitement. I loved the way he tried to act like he wasn't just a big kid, like it was no big deal. I swear I think things like that excited him more than they did us, he always seemed be having more fun than everyone else. At night when I sit alone in the dark I can still hear his voice, all of our best talks were in still dark of night after curfew. I would come in from being out and he would be there, sitting quietly in the dark. I would come in and sit with him, sometime we would talk - more often then not we just sat there together in the dark. He always seemed to know what to say, what I needed to hear. Tonight in the dark of my kitchen, with my daughter asleep in the next room, I hear the echo of his voice again.
Run. God has opened the door. There is nothing to fear. You are free. Run.