To my beautiful daughters,
Last night in our church, surrounded by so many of the people we love, I watched you stand up together and publicly share your faith in Christ. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I cried. Not just last night but countless times over the past week. I cried again this morning as the reality of it hit me.
You know that I cry easily and often. It’s been that way for a long time. Happy things. Sad things. Beautiful things. They all make me cry. You’ve been around me for long enough to know that. However, as I reflect on what took place last night, I want to take a moment to explain why the emotion that has overwhelmed me this week has a deeper root than I suspect you fully understand.
I know what it means to follow God and I know that sometimes it is hard. I know that we live in a broken world with sharp edges which pierce your heart and leave you breathless with pain. I know that sometimes the questions in your head scream so loudly you can barely think. I know that who you want to be is rarely who you are and that the reality of it can all too easily drag you down.
I also know that God is faithful. That, despite the failures and the pain and the disappointments, He can be trusted with your heart. I know that, often when you least expect it, He will surprise you with joy that is richer than anything you have ever felt before.
I don’t know what life has in store for you. If I could, I’d wrap you up and protect you from every shadow that falls across your path. I’d fight every dragon and banish the darkness with words of love. The truth is, amongst the rich tapestry of life, there will be dark days. Days when you feel lost and alone, adrift in a world where you don’t quite belong. I need you to know that my tears are not for the heartaches you will face, although I would spare you them if I could. I cried because I was overwhelmed by the absolute certainty that you are going to be ok. I don’t know what you will face, what choices you will make or how long I will get to walk beside you on the road but I know this: The God you have trusted has been faithful to me through every moment of my life and He will be faithful in every moment of yours.
I knew I didn’t deserve to sit there watching as my deepest prayers were answered. Your Dad and I have failed you so many times. You see the side of us that no one else sees. You know that we are far from perfect. You know that we argue sometimes and that it’s not pretty, that I can be unreasonable and unforgiving. You know the things we do can contradict our love for God. Yet, despite our stumbling, God has managed to captivate your hearts. We see that in you and we are deeply grateful. My prayer is that you remember our flaws, not so that you can copy them but so that you will always live with the freedom of knowing that God still uses imperfect people.
I was reminded again yesterday that we are not the only ones who love you. You have so many people in your life who are cheering you on, supporting you and standing beside you. We are so thankful for all the friends who have had the courage to show you what it means to live as part of a community of God’s people. Never forget the lessons they have taught you. As you grow, don’t be afraid to be extravagant with your love, just as they have often been with theirs. Just as God has always been with us.
As I listened to you speak with confidence and watched you step out of the water dripping wet, yet grinning with happiness, my heart was pierced with a joy so deep it almost hurt. Whatever you achieve in life, whether great and noble or seemingly insignificant in the eyes of the world, I need you to know that nothing will ever matter more than this choice you have made to follow God. If you only ever remember one thing I have told you, remember this: To pursue God is to pursue life. Out of that one choice, repeated in the countless moments of every day, will flow a life that is full of purpose and rich with joy, even in the shadows. That, above all else, is our desire for you.
Heidi Johnston is the author of Life in the Big Story and is currently the Rabbit Room’s only Irish contributor. She studied law at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and now, amongst other things, teaches a class on “Poetic and Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament” at Belfast Bible College. Heidi is passionate about getting people to engage with the Bible and has a fascination with the book of Deuteronomy.