Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day Seven.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But I don't always agree.

You could have a really great photo, with textbook composition and lighting and just the right shutter speed, but something might be missing. Words on the other hand can tell of a time in history that is worth revisiting. And if it's done correctly, the words themselves can become an image.

Take for example this snapshot that was captured on our last traveling day in Japan. To most browsers they may just see it as a girl in a river, enjoying the beauty of the scenery around her. No extra words needed.

But what you would walk away not knowing, was this...

A small town just outside of Hanno, nestled between mountains and covered in towering pines was where my Dad spent his high school years. To my sisters and I, the only thing we really knew about his time there with my grandparents was how they lived next to a river that occasionally flooded with heavy rains. We grew up knowing about this house and how he spent a summer gathering rocks from the riverbed and building a retaining wall with the companionship of his golden retriever Boss.

Which is why I was so surprised when we arrived. The town was not at all what I had pictured. The very first thing I noticed as we stepped out of the taxi was how quiet it was. You could hear our footsteps on the gravel as we walked down the small street, winding back towards their old home. At first I could only catch glimpses of the water through the overgrown brush, but then suddenly there it was. It took my breath away for a moment and we stood silent beneath the trees.

In that instant I could hear the sounds of their summers. Grammy calling out "Steve, time for lunch!" from the kitchen window. Grandad whistling over a project in the yard, and Boss bounding into the water as my Dad called him to come get one more rock.

Standing there was like being in church witnessing something that you know is sacred and you feel blessed just to be an onlooker. But something tugged at my heart that afternoon to go beyond the beauty of simply looking back on a memory, and to instead, make a new one.

So we took off our shoes and went further in.

The water was ice cold and the rocks were grey and smooth.

I stopped for a moment to look down and catch my balance, and what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes.

There they were. My feet. My bare feet, in the same riverbed that my Dad stood in as a teenager with his bare feet. Long before he ever knew what his career would be, who he would marry, how many kids he would have, or that he would even be able to take those kids back to this same spot, he stood where I stood and felt the same mountain water run swiftly between his toes.

It was a sincere and profound moment for me. It was as though I got to hear the very voice of God say to me, "You see? I am bigger than time. I know what your father did not know when he stood here, and I know what you do not even know as you stand in this same place. I am bigger than all of this."

He is so much bigger. But the other thing that struck me about that day is that regardless of how big our God is, He is still so loving and specifically good to each one of us in exactly the way we need it.

I say this because as we waded down to the swimming hole, I urged my Dad to make a new memory and swim again. And he did. And as I sat on the bank with grateful tears streaming down my face I could swear I was watching a 16 year old boy, arms flailing and wohooing into the crystal blue waters. Sitting there taking video and listening to him laugh was one of the best gifts that I have ever been given as a daughter.

It was a day so extraordinarily rare.

As we rolled our pant legs back down and put on our socks over cold, damp feet, I took one of the stones from the riverbed and slipped it into my pocket. It sits on my desk even now as I write this. At any given moment when I look at its smooth lines weathered over time, I am taken back to that perfect afternoon.

The one where I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the depth and love of my God, and witness the richness and spirit of my dad.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But I don't always agree.

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