Today our youngest, Anna, turns nineteen. I found the essay I was going to post on Father's Day. Since it was written about Anna in my arms fifteen years ago, I am posting it today.
My four-year old, Anna, lies across my lap. Her legs skew lazily over my left forearm, while her face rests against clasped hands nestled into my chest; her back follows the line of my cradling right arm. Her eyes shift and dart behind pink lids as she feigns sleep. We rock with a motion like the pendulum of an eight-day clock on that needy eighth day. My wife selects some music and around us drifts the lilting, finely sweet-soft crying of a dozen violins. We are together she and I, daughter and papa, the nurtured protected, the protector contented in a moment like I have shared with each of her four siblings.
Beyond this room with the lighting recessed and dimmed, out there in the darkness are other four-year olds. Some are battered. Some are dying of cancer. Many digest pitifully too little food, and too many are simply hungry for papa to rock them. I remember being a four-year old hungry for my daddy.
Feigning drifts away and limp sleep is revealed in the dangling legs and small lips fallen open in millimeters. Gentle, rhythmic breath escapes her in tempo with my rocking. This child, my child, is well. She knows that I love her, for truly I love her with a joyous, exquisite depth that almost aches. The wretchedness of my adult world reels against all sense, and passion within demands I become hard in response. I release my anxieties to God and recognize this moment of peace, of priceless wonder, of paternity as the sum of the meaning I have found in Christ. Meaning which many men surely must have known across the centuries, and meaning lost by so many men that hate and violence and lies have come to rule the earth.
Sleep stretches through Anna's thirty-odd pounds, and she wrestles free from her cradled position to twist herself flat and flung chest to chest against my slouching frame. Her head is now pillowed by my shoulder, and her silken, sandy hair graces my cheek. Her heart thumps near mine, and I feel like a drum. That red muscle in her is the percussionist and I vibrate full, resonate, as my soul answers with deep soundings to her gentle beat. My arms wrap her body and as tightly as I might without waking her, I squeeze her, love her with all I have; understanding floods my heart: my human passion, my purpose as a man, a man's place in the Father's heart.