I came home to find my wife and three kids sitting at the kitchen table, legs dangling over their chairs. My oldest son had a huge grin on his face. I noticed first the smile and then later the large bandage on his arm.
I figured there must be a story to tell and, boy did they have one. The kids were watching television in our basement rec room and my son, who was seven or eight at the time, was leaning heavily on a glass coffee table that sat in a corner of the room.
My wife was on the phone on hold, waiting to talk to a “live person” with our health insurance carrier about a bill we had gotten in the mail. The next thing my wife heard was a crashing sound. The glass top of the coffee table had given away and my son went crashing through to the bottom. (For the record, we had lectured him incessantly about sitting on the table.)
My wife ran to the basement to find our son seated in the middle of the coffee table remains with blood running up and down his arm. She feared the worst. She cleaned him up the best she could, wrapped his arm in dish towels and whatever else she could find in the kitchen, carried him to the car, and raced to the emergency room.
Push the story ahead twenty minutes and what could have been a tragedy turned into just a scratch. He was fine, none the worse for wear. When I came home and saw everyone happy, I cringed thinking of what could have happened.
There but the grace of God, go I
There have been many moments in our life over the years — some big, some small, some with happy endings, some with not-so-happy endings — that have worked to remind my wife and I how blessed we really are.
When our daughter was born, like any parent, we couldn’t wait for her to reach key milestones, first words and steps being two of the bigger ones. When she was two, she started walking. We’d lift her out of her crib when she woke and she’d be a blur throughout the day, until she pooped-out at the end of the day. She’d go to sleep and start it all the next day.
One particular night, she had trouble falling asleep. We waited her out though and finally she fell asleep. Late in the middle of the night, my wife and I in our drowsy state woke to hear her crying again from her crib.
I started to get out of bed, but my wife stopped me. “She probably just woke herself up, give her a second, she’ll fall right back to sleep,” my wife said. After a little bit, the crying stopped and then started again. I’m not sure what I heard, but I opened my eyes with a start, the crying sounded different this time, like it was on the move.
I raced out of our bed and into the hallway to find my daughter tottering in front of the steps. Our daughter had somehow climbed out of her crib, jumped to the floor, opened her door and was in the hallway.
I quickly picked her up and held her in my arms. She stopped crying instantly. My wife and I looked at each other with incredulous looks. She was right in front of the steps and could have easily fallen down the twenty steps to the first floor. I’ll never know how my daughter got out of her crib, it never happened again, but God held her in his hands that night.
Seeing God’s fingerprints all around us
I think of other examples: the time I came home early from work feeling nauseous and my wife forced me to go to the hospital. Fortunately, I listened when I did, I ended up having an appendicitis and needing surgery. I think too of the time our youngest son got lost in a department store. Okay he wasn’t really lost. In his mind, he was playing hide-and-seek by hiding in the middle of a rack of clothes. The two minutes that we didn’t know where he was, were the longest two minutes of our lives.
Of course, he came running out happy as a clam, especially with his new discovery. My wife and I were a mess and I’ll be sure to leave that story out when Parenting Magazine comes to interview me one day for my Father of the Year Award, but we were certainly pleased to see him.
Challenged, but never overwhelmed
We haven’t always come away unscathed, we’ve faced our share of challenges, but God is always protecting us. For example, I thank God every Christmas for his all-knowing hand. Several years ago, we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike traveling to visit with family the day after Christmas. We left with grayish skis. However, within a few minutes of getting on the turnpike, we found ourselves in the middle of a snow squall. The road was packed with icy snow and flakes raced down faster than my wipers could keep them off the windshield.
I slowed, but not slow enough. We rounded a curve in the road and came upon a long back-log of red lights. I braked but my car fishtailed one way and then the other. I got the car under control, but before we could relax, we started spinning out again and our backend hit the side of a concrete barrier and than swerved back to hit the rear of another car, before a third car hit us in the trunk.
I looked around in shock, worried to death. Fortunately, my wife and daughter and our puppy who we had brought along were bruised, but generally fine. The other drivers and passengers in the cars near us were fine too. Some others ahead and behind us, however, weren’t so lucky. We were part of a 30-car pile-up on the turnpike. We saw close-up later how scary the accident had been. Several cars had been crushed in between tractor trailers.
Some might point to coincidence. They might say that we were just lucky. They might downplay God’s role. I take a different view. I prefer to view it as God looking down and giving us exactly what we needed in that particular moment.