My dad loves to be outside, and I definitely got that bug from him. Although it took a long time to really germinate and come to the surface, now it’s a full blown tree. Being outside, seeing the trees, clouds, mountains and sky breathes life into me.
Right after my senior year of college, my dad, sister, uncle, two cousins, and myself hiked from Toulumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. 25 miles or so over 5 days and a couple of run-ins with bears. We even climbed the chains to ascend Half Dome. It was a awesome adventure. But the moment that sticks with more than any from that trip 25 years ago didn’t have anything to do with a breathtaking view.
My dad and I were sitting next to a stream (somewhat similar to the one above), and just talking. He took his boots off and dipped his feet into the creek. So refreshing after a long, hot hike. I could tell he was relishing in this moment: a cool stream, a peaceful spot under a lush canopy of trees, being with a son he loved. I was 22-years-old, and at that age I wasn’t quite mature enough to handle this tender moment. It felt awkward. I was intuitive enough to know it felt awkward. And I flinched, and got up and walked away.
What was awkward you ask? It was something unspoken. My dad was never very expressive with his emotions. Like I said, I could tell he was relishing in the moment, but couldn’t quite get out the words. Although he didn’t say he loved me in that moment, I just knew. As an intuitive, I just knew. He said it on plenty of other occasions, so I knew. But this was different. It took me a long time to realize in that moment he was just enjoying me. Enjoying being with me and sharing this peaceful convergence. I was uncomfortable with the unspoken part, and walked away.
I wish I had that moment back, because something amazing happened. Something I wish happened more often in life. Being enjoyed is such a rare treat. It’s not that there aren’t people in our lives that love us or a lack of people telling us. But it is something more. The feeling of being enjoyed is transforming. It’s as if someone is saying there is no where else and with no one else I’d rather be at this moment. How valuable you feel at that moment.
I’ve long struggled with keeping love at arms length. Love feels invasive and uncomfortable. But I also long to be known and invited into deep relationship. So it’s an odd dichotomy to live in the tension of. I can be devious enough to deflect love when I see a moment coming, but that is why I have such admiration for how God loves me. He sees past my defenses and strong-arm tactics. So clever is He. Lyrics from a song by Caedmon’s Call song Oh Lord Your Love affect me deeply:
“I come to You with empty hands and a heart that’s fragile
You come to me with a wealth of love.”
Curiously, God pulled a devious trick on me when I incorrectly thought the lyrics said, “You come to me with well-thought love.” I thought to myself, that is an amazing lyric and how true. He used my incorrect hearing to deflect my deflection tactics. Because I admire the trickery of His well thought love that reaches a heart that likes to avoid being affected. When I realized I heard the lyric wrong, I immediately had an even greater admiration for a clever, loving Father in heaven. How valuable I felt at that moment that He pushes down my strong arm with His gentle love and reminds me He enjoys me. They weren’t audible words, but I just knew, and they transform my heart and mind.
So I’m good at evacuating in an uncomfortable moment, missing out on the opportunity to really feel loved in real time. I missed out on that moment with my dad 25 years ago. But I long to be better at embracing those occasions now. Being enjoyed is a truly freeing and invigorating event. The Father’s clever love for me constantly jukes my defense mechanisms, for which I am truly thankful. How valuable I feel when I see how crafty and cleverly He personalizes His affection for me. It’s as if there is no where else and no one else He’d rather be than with me.
Photo by Mick Haupt. Bedgellert, Wales. Shot on film, Canon A2 ©2000