One night last year I was lying in bed having a difficult time with something. It was the night before our daughter Ally’s eighteenth birthday, and I knew it would be her last birthday at home before heading off to college. I didn’t care that college was only five minutes away! Ally was leaving, and I felt as if I were dying inside.
How were we supposed to live without Ally at the breakfast table in the morning; without Ally lounging on the sofa in the evenings; without Ally to hug good night? Ally’s laughter was the music of our home. How could we stand the quiet?
My face in my pillow, I hid my tears from Cindy, at the same time hoping she would notice. “Oh, what’s wrong?” she finally said.
How were we supposed to live without Ally at the breakfast table?
I managed to whisper: “I’m really going to miss her.”
Cindy said nothing, then said in a whisper: “Me too.”
Eighteen years earlier we were, as ecstatic parents-to-be, anticipating Cindy’s scheduled C-section the next morning. Cindy had spent the entire summer on bed rest; doctors feared that Ally was coming too early.
She came right on time, happy and beautiful. And after a few days in the hospital, we all came home together. Placing her in bed between us, we marveled how we could already love someone so much.
How many mornings over the next 18 years had she snuggled in bed between us? How could these days possibly be coming to an end?
I reached for my phone and texted Ally in her bedroom: “Come tuck us in.”
Moments later she walked in laughing. “Oh, Dad, it’s going to be OK.” She sat on the edge of our bed, roles reversing.
“I happened to look at next year’s calendar,” I said businesslike. “Looks like your nineteenth birthday will be on Sabbath. Maybe you can come home that weekend?”
“I will,” she said, reassuring the pathetic.
After she left again, I wept uncontrollably deep into the night. I just can’t do this . . . I just love them so much.
As I lay in bed, my heart full of love for my daughter, I suddenly felt a strong impression: “That’s how much I love My children too.”
The realization startled me. Was it possible that this is how God Himself feels about every single one of us? That He weeps into the night with love for us?
I realized that my life was not over. I am called to love not only my own children, but all God’s children. Just as He would do anything for my children, I should be doing more to help bring His children home.
Tomorrow Ally is coming home—for her nineteenth birthday.
Andy Nash ([email protected]) is a professor and pastor at Southern Adventist University. Next summer he’s leading family-friendly trips to Israel and Thailand.