Dear Beautiful Girl-
If I thought it would keep you safe, I’d never let you leave the house again. We could spend our days building pillow forts and reading by the fireplace- I’d paste up posters and order-in exotic food and we’d dress in foreign garb and pretend to travel, we’d Skype our relatives and offer cyber hugs, we’d wait patiently for someone to create a virtual reality room like the one on Star Trek so we could spend a weekend at the coast, or climb a mountain, or get a massage.
But I cannot guarantee for you the safety of this house. A meteor could fall, a misguided mail truck could crumble the living room, an insect could ride in on someone’s shoe and infect us all with an unknown virus. Within these walls, there are a thousand things to fear.
I’ve been thinking about safety a lot lately – specifically, what I’ll teach you about what keeps you safe. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t even be aware of your fallibility for years and years yet – you’d live in that gorgeous kid space, protected from the ugliness of tragedy and human failing and violence and content with your unicorns and magic and light. Your father and I plan to do everything we can to keep you there for as long as possible. However, this world you’re in, it isn’t ideal. It can be beautiful, and wonderful, but it can also be dark and cruel. And sometimes scary things happen in this world, things we don’t expect and that we can’t control. Sometimes, maybe, you will witness some of this things. Sometimes you may not feel very safe.
If I thought it would keep you safe, I’d find someone who had developed a shrink ray and zap you down to fit into the pocket of my coat. I’d feed you bits of popcorn as we went about our day, and you’d occasionally pop into conversations using a tiny megaphone we’d fashion out of scrap paper and some Scotch tape. We’d cut a little window in the fabric so that you could watch the world from your linty cave, scrawling notes with a bit of pencil lead onto the lining that would likely come out in the wash anyway.
But I cannot guarantee the safety of my pocket. I could forget, one day, to remove you before I handed the coat over to dry cleaners. I could accidentally drop my keys on your tiny shrunken knee. I could freeze your skin with winter hands, or lose you on the subway, or spill a soda and drown you without knowing. Inside my pocket, there are a thousand things to fear.
We know it’s our job, your Daddo and I, to keep you out of harm’s way as much as we possibly can. And we plan to. There is very little that we wouldn’t do to keep you whole, and here, and happy. We’d wrestle bears or swim oceans or paint ourselves purple to keep you safe. But the two of us, though we love you so completely, are only just people, and sometimes people fail. Sometimes we won’t do everything right. Sometimes we might even scratch you accidentally or step on your toes or feed you broccoli even though we know you hate it. (I hope you don’t hate broccoli. Broccoli is kinda tasty.)
But here’s the thing, beautiful little girl – here is why you’re lucky. You have a really, really big God who knows you. He’s bigger than Daddo and me put together, bigger that all the grownups who love you, bigger than the city or the darkness or the whole wild world, including all the corners that we can’t see into, the under the beds, the spooky forests, the stormy seas. He’s the great big God of all of those things, and here’s the best part – He can go anywhere, and He has made you a promise. He will always be with you.
If I thought it would keep you safe, I’d stay with you everywhere for always. I’d follow you to kindergarten, to middle school, to college, and on your honeymoon. I’d sit blissfully in the back of your high school classroom and ignore the dagger glares you sent me when you thought your crush wasn’t looking. I’d walk you down the aisle and conveniently build myself a bedroom right next to yours in your new home – I’m sure you wouldn’t mind.
But I cannot guarantee your safety in my presence. Other people, bigger, stronger, faster than me, could swoop in if I got distracted and woo you away. I could accidentally crowd you off an escalator, or make you claustrophobic, or lead you down the wrong path. God forbid, I could hurt you myself- trip you by walking too close, catch your fingers in the car door, make your skin break out in heat rash by sitting too close on sunny days. In my presence, there are a thousand things to fear.
I wish I could tell you that God being with you meant nothing bad, or sad, or scary would ever happen. I wish it was that way, and sometimes I still have to ask God why He doesn’t just make it so all the bad things go away. You will probably still be scared, and still get hurt, and still be sad sometimes. Your Daddo and I will do everything we can to be with you, but if we sometimes can’t, your God will be. He will be right there with you, no matter what is going on, loving you just as much as He always has, loving you just as much as He always will. There is nothing you can do, or that can be done to you, that will make Him love you less, or leave you.
I wish I could promise you that we will always be together, you and Daddo and I, and that you never have to be afraid because we will be there to keep you safe. I can promise we will be there most of the time. But your safety isn’t about being with me and Daddo, or not getting scraped or bruised or bone-broken. Your safety isn’t defined by my ability to hold your hand or kiss your forehead or shine flashlights into the dark places. You are safe because He, our God, is with you. You are safe because He has promised to keep you, always, long after and much farther than I can keep you. Even if I can’t be with you, He will be, and you will always be with Him.
Which is why you must play outside, little beautiful girl. You must climb mountains and breathe air and turn strangers into friends and drive fast in cars and fall in love and maybe get hurt, or sick, or broken. Because yes, there are scary things, but you can look those scary things straight in the eye and say “My God is with me. And nothing, nothing, nothing you can do to me can separate me from Him.” You don’t have to be afraid, but it’s okay if you feel afraid sometimes. We all feel afraid. But you must not let fear stop you from being awesome. You, baby girl, were born to be awesome.
Just to be safe, though, you should also be reasonable. Please wear a sweater. Please look before crossing the street. Please remember how much we want to be with you, how much we value those toes and fingers and elbows and eyes. Wear a helmet. Don’t eat fuzzy things.
But even if you are hurting, He will be with you. When you can’t feel Him, He will love you just the same. When you can’t see me, He is with you. When you feel lost, He is with you. When you are scared, or sad, or lonely, He is with you.
If you go and I can’t follow, He will keep you. He will keep us.
That is how I will keep you safe, precious beautiful girl. By reminding you always that you are His.