Broken Hearted Joy
My daddy went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, September 28, 2014.
I’m still sad but at the same time, it's a sad filled with joy. Broken hearted Joy.
I’m not sad for him. I’m sad for me. I miss him and I know the world will never, ever feel the same for me in this life. But, it will be good again. It will just be different.
Within the last month before my daddy died, I read these words by Jonathan Edwards:
“All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble broken hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit; and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior.”
These words are so true. And they were ringing in my heart those days in the hospital, those days of watching my daddy fade from this life. God knew I would cling to those words and to the phrase, “a humble broken hearted joy.” This is the way I feel. My heart is so broken, yet in ways unspeakable, full of joy ~ only because of Christ. In this life, God gave me gracious affection and a heart full of love for my daddy. He and Mama gave my brothers, my sister, and me, a happy childhood home.
Back in 2003, I wrote:
I always called him Daddy – I still do. When I was a little girl I was afraid of many things . . . the dark, thunderstorms, snakes and spiders, unfamiliar places.
Back then I loved and still, to this day, love home. I like stability, familiarity, routine.
I remember my first day of school. I didn’t want to go - I just wanted to stay home.
Home was a happy, safe, familiar place filled with affection.
Mama drove me to school that first day and we got to the school early. I was the first student in my class. My teacher had wavy gray hair, glasses, and a nice smile.
She told me in which desk to sit. As I did, I looked around the room and noticed brightly colored letters on the walls and a huge chalkboard behind the teacher’s desk. I watched my teacher as she worked at her desk.
She spoke with me a little; I don’t remember what she said but I do remember getting used to my desk and somehow thinking this new place would be OK. It was becoming familiar.
The class began to fill up with other children. I watched them come in. Then I saw an adult come to the teacher, then to me, and they told me that I was in the wrong room.
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I gathered my things and followed the adults out of the room, all the while looking for my mother.
I saw her and she saw me. As I think on it now, she must have seen the tears in my eyes because she quickly made her way over to me and said how sorry she was and told me that I would like my new teacher, I really would.
She told me that this teacher had taught her and my dad when they were in school.
I still remember standing in the little foyer of the classroom, in front of the cloakroom, just outside the new unfamiliar big room, holding tightly onto my mother’s legs
My new teacher took me by the hand and brought me to my desk and said, “I taught your mommy and daddy.”
Somehow that comforted me.
It was also during my early years that I had a frightening, recurring dream. I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified because I dreamed that spiders and snakes were crawling all over me.
Scared and trembling, I always got up and ran to Mama and Daddy’s room.
Their room was safe, protected, and secure. Daddy was there. When I appeared at the side of their bed, on my mother’s side, she would say, “Get in and don’t wiggle.”
I wasn’t going to wiggle. I didn’t want to go back to my bed where the spiders and snakes lived.
Having my mother’s arms wrapped around me, and hearing my daddy’s breathing on the other side of the bed, knowing he was right there comforted me.
I had other fears. I was terribly afraid of thunderstorms. I remember one storm in particular when the thunder popped, the lights flashed, and I ran to Daddy’s room.
I just stood in the doorway. He was studying at his desk – he didn’t even look up but he obviously heard me because he said, “Come on in, Audrey.” I did. And I was secure. I was with my daddy. I just sat on his bed while he worked until the storm was over.
Something about him being close made everything OK. He was strong – like a tower – I ran there and I was safe. The storm could rage but I felt safe because I was with my daddy.
One night, however, daddy taught me to trust Someone other than him or my mom or the secure things around me. I don’t think it was his intention yet it is the lesson I learned and one that I still carry with me to this day.
My childhood home was in rural South Carolina - the same 40-acre farm on which my dad grew up. And one night, he decided he had a job for my sister and me.
It was one of those really dark nights out in the country. There were no street lights and even the sky was dark; no moonlight or starlight. And it happened to be a night when Daddy needed something out in the barn that was just beyond the pasture behind our house.
He handed a flashlight to my sister and me and sent us out.
I was stunned. He was telling us to go out into the dark night with just a flashlight. Didn’t he know I was frightened?
When I was growing up, we didn’t question my dad. If he told us to do something, we just did it. I thought Daddy knew everything and I thought he was so great. If I ever put anyone on a pedestal – it was my daddy.
All these years later I still remember walking out of the back porch hearing the screen door slam behind us. The light from the porch wasn’t very bright. It certainly wasn’t going to guide us all the way to the barn. And the flashlight was dim.
But we began our journey.
After a few sluggish steps, I whispered to my sister, “Are you scared?”
“No,” she whispered back as she held on tightly to my hand.
I remember seeing the light from the flashlight dancing on the scary ground in front of us.
There we were out in the darkness – alone and quiet, hearing all kinds of noises which I would later learn were just the pine trees swaying against each other in the night air. But to me they sounded like ghosts, bad guys, and boogie men.
I whispered again:
“Hope, let’s sing.”
And so we did.
The pine trees continued to sway, the light on the ground danced, and the sky was as black as ink but as we trudged on towards the barn we began to sing - softly and meekly,
“Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely, He sees and knows all the way you have trod; Never alone are the least of His children, Have faith in God. Have faith in God.”
And then we got louder on the chorus.
“Have faith in God, He’s on His throne; Have faith in God, He watches o’er His own. He cannot fail, He must prevail; Have faith in God, Have faith in God”
We sang all the verses and before long our focus wasn’t on the dark night or the bad guys or the noises – our focus was on God. And we made it back home that night with whatever it was my dad sent us to get.
I don’t remember that part. What I do remember, however, is that God seemed to reach down out of heaven to hold my hand and extend His care to me. He etched in my memory His tender care, through a hymn, on a dark night.
God has used that night many times in my life. Though I don’t know how much Scripture I knew at that time – God took what I did know and brought it to my mind. I knew the hymn because we sang it often at the little church Daddy pastored. It was in that little church that I would take my seat every Sunday on the second row and listen to my daddy open the Word of God.