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A Cry in the Night October 11, 2010

Posted by markgeil in Philosophical musings.
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It was a cry in the night that pierced the darkness. It really was. That’s how I wanted to start this story, but that’s the cliché that has started a shelf full of bad mystery novels, so I can’t use those words anymore. Still, it was a cry in the night.

This was the cry: “Daddy!” It’s a cry that makes any father snap to attention like a restless coyote. It was the only sound to be heard across a dew-soaked pasture sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning during Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter camp. I heard it in the cold confines of our tent, from somewhere outside, and I was among a whole bunch of potential recipients of the cry for help.

I go to Daddy-Daughter camp every year, one weekend with Rebekah and one with Hannah. And every year, I’m constantly turning my head when I hear, “Daddy,” along with all the other men within earshot. The daughters are all called by name, so at most three or four Hannahs would look up when I called my daughter’s name. But all the fathers are called “Daddy”, so we spend a lot of time turning our heads toward the wrong plea.

It was easy to decide that my own daughter was not the one calling out that night, though. I opened my foggy eyes enough to see a tousle of brown hair sticking out of a sleeping bag, still asleep. And, truth be told, I did not exactly snap to attention. It’s just not in me. I sleep too soundly. Much to my wife’s dismay, I can still be trying to figure out who I am while one of our kids is throwing up in the bathroom. I think the girl calling out “Daddy” in the dark must have had a father like me, because he did not immediately answer. And so she called again.

                Daddy! … Daddy? … Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!    …  Come here!

By the third or fourth pitiful cry I was pondering whether or not to go out myself and see what was the matter. You know that maternal instinct they talk about? Well, for all our “suck it up” bravado, there is something deep inside a man that is awakened by a little girl’s cry for help. It’s the Rescue Hero that is wired in us all, and even if it’s been dormant for years a single little voice can call it to service.

I heard no more cries after that, and I will never know what caused them or fixed them. Confident that the problem was solved, I drifted back to sleep, but not before I thought of one more cry in the night that pierced the darkness.

                Abba!    Father!

We had pondered these words at Bible study the previous Monday night. They were uttered by Jesus during a long night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just before, He had thrice declared that He was in a state of deep depression, terrified and sorrowful to the point of death. He had cause to fear. The mob of 600 soldiers and hired thugs was on the way to arrest Him, setting in motion the events leading to the most painful of deaths. He knew that. More profound, though was the spiritual task Jesus foresaw: a moment unlike any before or since, a moment of separation from God.

So it was that Jesus, God Himself, bowed down on the ground before God. Can you imagine such a scene? So it was that Jesus, feeling the most human of emotions, cried out in the night.

                Daddy!   Daddy!

And so it was that God heard, and mourned, because He could not be a Rescue Hero. Oh, such a rescue would have been easy for God. 600 soldiers? Piece of cake. The far greater challenge was to not rescue. But God knew, and Jesus knew, that this was the only way. The only way to save me, and you, and even that little girl at camp and her father.

It’s a fairly rote expression in church to say that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. It is only when we get a hint of His plaintive cry in the garden that we begin to not just know what it means, but to feel it.

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