By Hugh Chapman
My son and I stood at a busy intersection in Springfield Missouri, with me holding tightly to a bag of bicycle parts that we had just purchased. We had already made our plan. If I could successfully repair my old ten-speed, then with Dusty on his new red Schwinn we’d soon undertake our next adventure. It would be a 30-mile ride through the Arkansas Ozarks to a neighboring town’s campground where we would sleep beneath the stars. Dusty had been excited about the prospects of the two of us spending time together, and I was optimistic that I might finally be able to stick to a fitness plan.
As we waited for Dusty’s mother at the intersection, an elderly woman walking a small dog approached. I nodded cordially in her direction, and she replied with a smile, “Good morning gentlemen, it’s a glorious day.”
I smiled, quietly impressed by the rarity of her words and realized that the term she had chosen was the perfect description of this particular morning. With joyful enthusiasm, I returned the greeting, “Yes ma’am. It is a glorious day.”
Dusty and I watched as she made her way down the city sidewalk and then disappeared around a corner. It was then that Dusty, quite unexpectedly, reached up to take my hand.
I should explain, at this point, that my son was not a baby anymore. In fact, the bicycle he planed to ride had been a gift for his tenth birthday less than a week earlier. Furthermore, we were well up on the sidewalk, so there was no imminent danger that I could see, of being struck by a passing car. The fact was, there was really no reason for him to have held my hand that day. None, that is, except for one, and when I considered that reason, I found myself struggling to choke back a tear. On that morning, I realized that my son had simply wanted to say, in his quiet and unspoken way, “I love you Dad.” With the holding of my hand, he found the perfect means.
I breathed a sigh as I thought of all the wonderful ways in which God had blessed my family. And there on that corner, my mind drifted back to the day I had first seen my son, and had first held his hand.
It had been in a little hospital in Salem, Arkansas. I recall the nurse bringing my newborn son into the room, where through misty eyes I looked lovingly at God’s wondrous creation. Reaching softly to him, I had placed my hand near his, where to my surprise, Dusty’s tiny hand softly grasped my finger. It was a feeling of joy so intense that I’ve kept it hidden away within the depths of my heart, and I will carry it there for the rest of my life.
As Dusty grew, he and I became the very best of friends. I recall times when he and I would make late night runs to the corner Convenience Store for a bottle of soda pop and perhaps a candy bar. Together we’d laugh and tell of funny things that had happened during the day, and we’d sing songs like, “The Big Yellow School Bus,” and “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” He was truly my very best friend, and we’d find joy in just being together. I recall reaching across the car seat to take his hand in mine. That simple contact would seem to put me at peace with the outside world, and the troubles that so often surrounded me then. He was my only son, and during that part of his life, I was his hero. And there, for those few magical years, his world seemingly revolved around the time when I would arrive home from work, and we could be together again.
As my mind leafed through the pages of the fleeting moments of his childhood, I paused again to consider another time, when a few short years later I had reluctantly driven him to his first day of school. That morning, I had tightly held to his hand as together we made our way down the walkways that led to the big double doors in the front of the building. It was there that my heart began to ache as his hand softly pulled away from mine. Slowly, he made his way toward the entrance, but then turned with a brave smile. “I’ll be all right, now, Dad. I’ll see you later on, okay?”
And though we did see each other again late that afternoon, his first day at school marked the beginning of his ever-increasing independence of me. And though sometimes I would desperately try to cling to the past, I was forced to face the realization. Though he would be my son forever, he would be my little boy for only a very short time — for such was God’s plan.
As I pondered this, my thoughts were suddenly jostled by a couple of young boys, around the age of eleven or twelve, who on skateboards had wheeled noisily past our street-corner. As they stopped nearby, one of them looked to Dusty and slightly laughed. Then, as he nudged his friend, there was more snickering as the two made their way hastily into a nearby video store. Alone again, Dusty and I stood watching the traffic, but in a moment I felt what I had feared might happen. Dusty’s hand loosened its grip and slowly slipped away — as though he had realized that perhaps he was a little too old, now, to be holding his dad’s hand.
I wanted to say something, to try to reassure him. I wanted to tell him that it was okay to keep contact with those we love, despite what the others might think. After all, few and far between are the families that are as close as ours had been. I wanted to explain that what might have seemed silly to others might be fine for us. It was all a matter of how you looked at things.
Those are the things that I wanted to say; instead I remained silent, settling for the contentment that I found just in sharing the morning with him.
And so we stood there — on our little corner of the street — father and son, side by side, on an April Springfield morning. In my hand, I held to a package of bicycle parts, as in his heart Dusty must have held to his dreams of an upcoming father and son adventure. But perhaps in a deeper and even more real sense, Dusty and I were both struggling desperately to simply hold on to one another.
Saddened by the very passage of time, I tried to understand. Then, closing my eyes, I breathed a silent prayer, “God, help me to accept what I know must eventually come to be.”
When I looked back to Dusty, I saw my son again, but this time it was in a new light. He was not a baby anymore. The pudgy round-faced boy I once knew was now quickly turning into a fine young man. He was growing tall, lean, strong, and no longer did he look to me for approval in everything he did. He was developing his own vision of how his life should be, and with it came his own thoughts, his own feelings, his own dreams…
It was there at that street corner in Springfield that God reminded me of yet another set of hands, which, over the course of Dusty’s lifetime had come to mean so much to me — the nail scarred hands of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You see, for the first time, it occurred to me that morning that those hands — those nail scarred hands — were the same hands that have shaped and molded the lives of hundreds of millions throughout the years. They were hands that have healed the sick and brought sight to the blind; fed the multitudes and have allowed the lame to walk. They are the hands of life, the hands that have dried the tears, and comforted the souls of men, women and children throughout the course of time. They represent the hands of God, and they are the hands that are working in our lives even today, if only we allow them.
I came to know, on that day, that time rolls on, and with it our lives are forever altered. Our children grow up, and in the process, they gain their independence from us. Though we may have once been the center of their world, as the years of their lives flash by, we are destined to become only occasional and often minor players in their existence. On that day, through God’s grace, I came to know of all these things, and I’ve since come to accept them as being a part of God’s great plan.
Still, it occurs to me that if we take the time to teach our children in the way that God would surely have us to, then our life’s work will be finally complete. If our children learn to live according to God’s will, then we will soon find that the more they move away from our often fallible hands, the closer they move toward the perfect guidance of those “nail scarred hands.” And if that’s the case, then we as parents can rest easily knowing we’ve done what God has asked, and for that we will find joy enough to last a lifetime.
It’s been said that our time on earth flows swiftly, like the currents of a raging river. Though it hardly seems possible, a dozen years have passed since that hopeful morning in Springfield. As a brief follow-up; yes, we did take our bike trip together; no, I didn’t stick to my fitness program; and looking back, I realize that that warm morning in Springfield would mark the last time that Dusty and I ever held hands.
Time marches on and our world is ever changing. My son has grown into a fine young man, and with it, he has grown strong in his Christian faith. I see him now, on the occasional weekend that he returns home from college for a visit.
Though I have no way of knowing what time may bring, I pray that, if it is in God’s will, Dusty will one day marry and experience the wonderful joy of having children of his own.
If that time should come, I hope that God allows me the opportunity to stand at my son’s side as the nurse presents to him, for the first time, an infant son of his own. And there, from my distant stance, I’ll proudly look on, as my son takes the hand of his child, and in his quiet unspoken way that I learned of so long ago, he’ll convey the message of his heart…
“I love you, Son.”
And indeed, it will be a glorious day.
Tags: Father and Son, Christian, Christian Short Stories, Jesus, God, Love, Bible, Family, Hope, Salvation