With Thanks for Kaeli
This time we're taking a break from our normal study series to celebrate the birth of our precious daughter -- Kaeli Nichole Gilcrease! Little Kaeli arrived on November 9, 2000 and instantly had at least two people head over heels in love with her! As I sit down to write this page in honor of Kaeli I already find myself struggling to find words to express the inexpressible.
The love of a father for his child... I've heard it described countless times throughout my life and done my best to appreciate its depth. Now, however, as I'm finally able to look into the eyes of my little girl I realize how miserably I've failed to comprehend its meaning. Words, analogies, comparisons... they all do their best to convey the depth of the meaning of this kind of love -- yet ultimately they all fail.
As I reflect on all of this now, I am struck all over again by this thing called grace -- something I first encountered many years ago.......
Grace has been defined by one man as "...unmerited favor. It is " the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man" (Titus 3:4). Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace." [Note 1]
How is it that I have come to such a place as this? There was a time in my life when I saw no reason, certainly no future, and no real hope for anything other than simply getting from one day to the next. But then love stooped down to me... and I experienced grace.
No, there was no great vision, no dramatic event after which everything was forever changed. Rather it was, I suspect, the way in
which God normally works with most of us...
There were those times a friend would call with just the right encouragement at just the right time. Others prayed with me when I needed to pray and cried with me when I needed to cry. My family reminded me that, despite the periodic squabbles that come with being a family, the love of parents and brothers and sisters endures. I learned that grace comes not through the major life events that so many of us spend so much time looking for; rather, it comes through the everyday little things in life that most of us are too busy to recognize.
And I learned the value of solitude.
In this fast-paced world we live in solitude has become a stranger. Most of us find ourselves constantly immersed in noise and activity from sunup to sundown. We wake up to a barrage of music and traffic reports from the alarm clock radio. We drive to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic (usually with the radio still on) and then spend the day running through a seemingly endless series of meetings, urgent crises, and emails, all the while keeping up with world news and the stock market via the Internet. Then, it's back home (hello again traffic and radio) to a quick dinner and the evening to-do list. Finally, if we're devoted, we manage to squeeze in a brief "quiet time" with God before we fall into bed and start the whole cycle over again.
Where are the times of quiet solitude we so desperately need for rest and reflection? Again it was grace, certainly not my own choice or wisdom, that made me stop and learn to appreciate the value of solitude. Sometimes God allows the circumstances of our life to bring us to a place where we experience solitude whether we like it or not. That's how it happened with me. It was in those protracted times of solitude -- times spent alone in scripture, in prayer, and in quietness -- that I slowly began to learn what really mattered in life... and what didn't. Looking back, I can see the immeasurable value of those difficult times. As Robert Frost concluded in his now immortal poem, I too learned the illimitable value of the road less traveled:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
All of this I experienced many years ago -- and thought I had turned a corner from which I would never return. But as many of us have learned by experience, even the greatest lessons of life sometimes begin to fade with the passage of time -- not because they lack veracity; rather, because we do. And so I'm back where I began...
Kaeli Nichole...to simply say "I love you" leaves so much unsaid. At the same time it says both everything and nothing. You are truly a gift from God -- yet another evidence of his grace in my life. As I hold you close, all of the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of the past come rolling over me all at once and I find myself face-to-face with a single question that demands an answer: What will I do with what I've been given?
Your arrival has reminded me of the priceless lessons of the past. But if I allow them to remain in the past than I will miss out on their greatest value, for the value of lessons learned is not simply in the truths they represent but in the application of those truths to the here and now.
So thank you, Kaeli, for reminding your daddy about what really matters.
Next Lesson: The Dawn of an Age