My dad wasn’t at my wedding. He had died 10 weeks before, his body riddled with cancer and his face ravaged by radiation. My grief swelled and receded in unpredictable rhythms over the next four years, but it wasn’t until I had my first baby girl that a terror awoke which I hadn’t realized was sleeping on the ocean floor.
Her porcelain infant face reflected a soft glow from the nightlight as I held her at 2am. It occurred to me suddenly that I could not promise her that everything would be okay. I could not promise her that I would be at her wedding day. I did not know for sure that I would watch her grow up or cheer her on from the stands.
My entire chest clenched tight as my breath staggered. My dad would never hold her.
I prayerfully pleaded through sobs and gasps, God please let me watch her fall in love. Please God, let me walk with her and hold her and wipe her tears. I want to hold my grandchild. Her entire life flashed before my eyes and I wanted to grab it tight, to know with certainty I would be a part of every moment, to never hurt her by leaving her. I knew that I could not promise that to her, that God would not promise that to me, and so I cried uncontrollably in anger and fear.
Her sweet little eyes did not even open.
In the dark, floating on a gliding chair, God spoke the promise I needed to hear. My baby girl is His daughter, carefully created with delight and intention. He set her spirit loose from heaven and into my arms because she and I belonged to each other. Her spirit and mine were destined to dance, and holding on to one another see time and again the loving and tender heart of God. He has written the beautiful story of her days in a sacred book, and would not turn His eyes from her for a single one of them. The love I hold for her, though it can barely be contained by my body, could only faintly echo the song He sings over Her. His steadfast love and enduring faithfulness would surround her all of her days.
In the painful knowledge that I could not protect my daughter, or possess the lights and shadows of her life ahead, my fear of the promises God would not make to us gave way to the comfort of the promises He will never break. He will love her, provide for her, and never leave her. I didn’t surrender my daughter to God that night, I acknowledged in my soul that she has always been His and always will be. I cannot promise her I will always be there for her, but she and I can claim together the promise that God will. I can only hold out for her the hope of the love that I’ve experienced from God myself, so I let it wash over my weary mother’s soul.
I hold my daughter with confidence these days, her body much larger as her legs drape over the side of the couch. I hold her as a loving mother without fear for her future, because I know I am holding a beloved soul in my fragile and beloved arms.