As a child, each evening my dad would come into my room, prop up next to my bed to talk with me for a few minutes before telling me goodnight. The conversations would vary, but the ending was always the same. Before getting up he would say, “If I lined up all the little girls in the whole wide world, I would pick you to be my daughter.” I loved hearing that as a little girl, so I would smile, give him a big hug and kiss and drift off to sleep. Every night was consistent. I never tired of hearing those words. As I grew older and no longer needed my parents to tuck me in, that sweet phrase would still come out every now and then. Even if I acted too cool to hear it, inside it affected me.
I finished college at Texas ATM University and received my first job teaching Kindergarten in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I moved in to my own apartment and began to get acquainted with my new city and new home. Though no one was tucking me in at bedtime, with out fail I received flowers twice a year, every year; Valentine’s Day and my birthday. On every card my dad would sign it, “If I lined up all the girls in the whole wide world, I would pick you to be my daughter”. It meant considerably more to me now that I was older, but still I wasn’t fully aware of the depth of its significance.
Growing up, my parents were not those types of parents who were shy about the purity conversation. They were explicitly clear about the Bible’s Word on it. They talked about how beautiful it was, inside the context of marriage, but gave us appropriate warnings when done outside the will of God. They communicated to my brother and I about risky situations, dating dangerous people, being unequally yoked and all the how’s and why’s of staying abstinent until marriage. There was no question left unanswered. As far as my parent’s role was concerned, they had thoroughly directed me to the pathway of righteousness and I was on it and stayed on it for a long time.
Even with all of this knowledge, wisdom and committed spirit inside of me, when I turned 27, I met an unbeliever and became pregnant almost immediately.
One word sums up everything I felt in that moment…DESTROYED.
All I could think, one word, it just kept re-occurring in my mind…Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed. “Lauren, your reputation, your relationships with your family, your ability to ever have a biblically designed family, your spirituality, your whole life, every dream you have ever had, all of it has been…destroyed.”
As one would imagine, almost instantaneously, the Enemy began whispering horrible things in my ear. “Your dad won’t love you anymore. He’ll be so embarrassed of you. You have humiliated him in front of every one he knows. And don’t even think about him loving this kid. He will never love this kid. Never.” These thoughts were not because of anything that happened between my dad and me. He and I had an amazing relationship our whole lives. These were whisperings of an evil presence doing everything he could to bring me into a place of fear. “Were any of these thoughts actually true? Was my dad still going to love me? Would he love this baby? Would I love this baby? What will my home church say?” All of these fears running through my head over and over and over again, getting worse by the minute. I was plunging into a deep pit and I felt I helpless to do anything about it. I knew I had to go home; I had to tell my parents what was going on, so I packed and got in the car.
After driving 3 long hours, I drove up to my beloved parent’s house. This beautiful home that was filled with treasured memories; hundreds of nights playing Sorry! as a family, taking our lab to the lake on weekends, nightly prayers before bed, laughing at each others quirks, supporting each other through deaths in the family, words of wisdom through junior high and high school, prayers for each other daily, fun memory after fun memory…it all hit me as I put my car in park.
I didn’t want to go in.
This home that was filled with nothing but beautiful times, happiness, and joy…I was now entering that love-filled home carrying heavy and almost unendurable sorrow. I was bearing this excruciating wound, something that I had never experienced before. Just walking in the door, I knew, would be piercingly painful.
I took several deep breaths and walked in through the back door. I won’t go into all of the details of that evening, but I will share with you that it wasn’t perfect. My parents are wonderful and they are indeed the godliest couple that I know, but this particular night…it wasn’t great. Feelings were heightened and things were said… emotional things. Everyone was on edge, everyone was hurt and everyone was scared. Nothing scarring was said, but it wasn’t a flawless evening either. We all three went to bed with angst.
When I woke up around 8:30 the next morning, both of my parents had already left for work. I walked silently into the living room and sat down on the couch. I had no music on, no tv, no phone, nothing. I was just sitting on the couch in my parent’s living room alone and quiet. I was numb. I had been sitting there for about an hour when I heard the back door creak open. My heart began to pound and beads of sweat rose up on my palms. I didn’t even turn around to see who it was. I was frozen in fear. My dad gently walked into the living room and slowly sat down in an oversized chair across from me, but didn’t say a word.
As he sat there quiet and pensive, looking down at the floor, I began to think about all of the dreams I had lost. “The look of my father seeing me in a white dress on my wedding day: Ruined. All of the protection and guidance he had given me for 27 years: I had stomped on it. Every time he would look at me now, he would see me for what I was: Used, torn, and publicly blemished.”
The room was tense, heavy and thick with anxiety. We sat there quietly for probably only 5 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Finally, even with all of those thoughts racing through my head, heart throbbing, feeling nauseated, I looked up at him and with a quiver in my tone, all I could get out was, “Dad…I don’t have anything else to say except I’m sorry. I am so very, very, sorry.”
My dad looked up at me, silently lifted up his hand, tenderly waved my words away and said, “Oh Lauren…if I lined up all the little girls in the whole wide world, I would still pick you… every time.” And with those words, I wept, uncontrollably wept, for a really long time. I sobbed out all of my fears and all of the evil thoughts from the Enemy. Those penetrating words, those very simple words…they were so powerful that they chartered the rest of the way that I handled my unwed pregnancy.
My dad took a small childhood phrase and used it to show his unconditional love to me. In my lowest valley, at my foulest moment, he unwaveringly said to me, “Nothing will change my love for you. Nothing. I’d still pick you. Every time.”
And ultimately, he portrayed my Heavenly Father’s love. His love is faithful, unstained and full of restoration. My earthly father’s forgiveness and compassion had given me the perfect picture of my Heavenly Father’s grace, redemption and love.
I don’t have enough words to express how much I love my dad.