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At the Library

I was sitting in my favorite chair, studying for the final stages of my doctoral degree, when Sarah announced herself in my presence with a question: “Daddy, do you want to see my family picture?”

“Sarah, Daddy’s busy. Come back in a little while, Honey.”

Good move, right? I was busy. A week’s worth of work to squeeze into a weekend. You’ve been there.

Ten minutes later she swept back into the living room, “Daddy, let me show you my picture.”

The heat went up around my collar. “Sarah, I said come back later. This is important.”

Three minutes later she stormed into the living room, got three inches from my nose, and barked with all the power a five-year-old could muster: “Do you want to see it or don’t you?” The assertive Christian woman in training.

“NO,” I told her, I DON’T.”

With that she zoomed out of the room and left me alone. And somehow, being alone at that moment wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. I felt like a jerk. (Don’t agree so loudly.) I went to the front door.

“Sarah,” I called, “could you come back inside a minute, please? Daddy would like to see your picture.”

She obliged with no recriminations, and popped up on my lap.

It was a great picture. She’d even given it a title. Across the top, in her best printing, she had inscribed: “OUR FAMILY BEST.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

“Here is Mommy [a stick figure with long yellow curly hair], here is me standing by Mommy [with a smiley face], here is our dog Katie, and here is Missy [her little sister was a stick figure lying in the street in front of the house, about three times bigger than anyone else]. It was a pretty good insight into how she saw our family.

“I love your picture, Honey,” I told her. “I’ll hang it on the dining room wall, and each night when I come home from work and from class [which was usually around 10 P.M.], I’m going to look at it.”

She took me at my word, beamed ear to ear, and went outside to play. I went back to my books. But for some reason I kept reading the same paragraph over and over.

Something was making me uneasy.

Something about Sarah’s picture.

Something was missing.

I went to the front door. “Sarah,” I called, “could you come back inside a minute, please? I want to look at your picture again, Honey.”

Sarah crawled back into my lap. I can close my eyes right now and see the way she looked. Cheeks rosy from playing outside. Pigtails. Strawberry Shortcake tennis shoes. A Cabbage Patch doll named Nellie tucked limply under her arm.

I asked my little girl a question, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer.

“Honey...there’s Mommy, and Sarah, and Missy. Katie the dog is in the picture, and the sun, and the house, and squirrels, and birdies. But Sarah...where is your Daddy?”

“You’re at the library,” she said.

Guard Your Heart, pp. 21-22.