There has been a running countdown in my head since last year. Nine months. Three months. One month. Fifteen days. One week. Forty-eight hours. Two hours. Ten minutes. Each minute going by slower than the last, I have waited to see my dad come out of the clouds on that Ethiopian Air plane and onto Burundian soil, where we have been on mission for two years. The moment it finally happened was exhilarating, tear filled and altogether joyous. How sweet was the first embrace! I cannot believe that I get two weeks with my dad in Burundi, proudly dragging him around to everyone I know and exclaiming, “THIS is my dad!”
I have one of those dads about whom books should be written. I can honestly say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to recall a negative memory about him. One of my favorite memories was waking up every Saturday morning to homemade breakfast. He would get up early and prepare every breakfast food and drink imaginable and wake us with the smell of bacon and coffee. At the kitchen island, we could order whatever we wanted. We would sit there late into the morning hours talking and laughing until our hearts and bellies were full. My roommates here in Africa often wonder where I get my breakfast cooking skills, to which I give my dad all the credit. In a way, they have been having breakfast with him through me!
As I have lived in Burundi, I have seen aspects of my heart and personality come alive that I never knew were there. It is in these moments that I have gotten to know my dad (and my mom…and my grandparents) more. These traits of theirs are like treasures hidden in my DNA that pop up and remind me of where I have come from. When I really miss them, I find that God shows me that my dad’s ability to empathize, my mom’s confidence, my grandma’s faithfulness, my grandpa’s passion and zeal, my grandma’s tenderness and caution, and my grandpa’s soft heartedness, even my dad’s breakfast cooking skills – all of it is right there, expressed through me. This has been a source of comfort since living in Africa; knowing that even though my friends here may never know these close people in my life, in a way, they do know them because they know me. What a blessing it is to carry on their legacy!
Having a dad like this has taught me so much about God’s heart. In the same way that I desire that people here in Burundi know these special people in my life, I desire that they know Jesus. And in the same way that God has allowed people to get to know these special ones through me, He has created the same avenue for people to know Him. His heart is expressed in me, in the church. When people look at us, they should know Jesus better, His love, His grace, His empathy, His tenderness; just as when people look at me, they should know my dad, my mom, my grandparents better.
Part of me was a little afraid when my dad came, because I wanted to make sure that I had lived up to his legacy well enough so that who I said he was would match who he really is when he came! I really wanted people to see my dad and say, “Ah, yes, I see that spirit of adventure came from Dave. The same empathy I have seen in Carley’s eyes has come from him.” How sad it would be if how I portrayed him was false, and people chose not to care to get to know him at all. What an amazing man they would have missed out on knowing!
Likewise, I am so encouraged and inspired to portray my God truly. How devastating it would be for the day to come when my Dad comes and people have it in their minds that He is a critical, demanding perfectionist because of how I portrayed Him; that they chose not to know Him or care because of how I expressed His character. This would be of such heavy eternal consequence, that even imagining the possibility brings tears to my eyes.
It is vital that we live out the legacy that God has placed in our spiritual DNA truly. When He comes to meet these people face to face, these people that we have sojourned with through our lifetimes, all my heart desires is that they see Him and say, “It is true, He really is compassionate and abounding in love, showing grace and mercy to thousands. I am so glad I know Him.”
The countdown has begun, and my Dad is coming. Even now, our spirits should leap at the possibility of proudly introducing others to Him and saying, “THIS is my Dad!” What anticipation and excitement exists in the hearts of those who live in the reality of that countdown, that at any moment our Dad will step off that thundering cloud and onto the soil of this earth, where we have been on mission, to call His children home. How sweet will that first embrace be!
“The servants who are ready and waiting for His return will be rewarded” (Luke 12:37).
Have a blessed week!