by Heather Thompson Day

“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When I was six years old I was told I would be taking the bus to school. I was immediately aware that this was a terrible idea; my father however, wasn’t following my line of thinking. I didn’t want to take the bus. There were giant children on them, children that were hardly children at all. There were mean, unruly boys who I knew would pull my ponytail and call me names. Plus, there were weird kids, and who knew who I would be forced to sit by?

I walked out of my bedroom and began to eat my break- fast; the realization of what was about to occur took full heat over my body and I sobbed. I pleaded and begged with my father not to make me ride bus. I made deals and promises I knew I’d never keep. I offered to do everyone’s chores for a month, and he said we all needed to share the responsibility. I said he could deduct my allowance, which was only a couple dollars a week, and he said I should be saving. I said I’d get all A’s, which he told me was expected. I said I’d do the laundry, dry the dishes, wash the car, and walk the dog, and he reminded me that I would be doing those things anyway, plus, we didn’t own a dog.

I grabbed his arm and pulled my hair. I stomped my feet and let snot fall from my nose. I told him I’d do anything as long as he’d keep me off that bus. Regardless, there I was ten minutes later, waiting at the bus stop. I watched the leaves roll past my untied sneakers and reached for my dad’s hand. I had convinced my father to walk me to the bus stop, even though it was right behind our apartment building. I squeezed his hand as if I was checking for his pulse. My father was a man of few words anyway. He’d answer most questions with the nod of his head and somehow cram paragraphs into a sentence.

I was a complete daddy’s girl. I had spent years wedging myself into this man’s soft spot, and I couldn’t believe that he was turning on me now. I felt the sweat collecting underneath my armpits as that yellow bus rolled around the corner. Tears welled up in my eyes again, as I looked at my father one last time. I swallowed back the large lump that had collected in my throat and gave his wrist one last final squeeze as if to signal to him that if there was ever a time to save me, it was now. He leaned down over me and kissed my forehead.

“This is going to be good for you,” he whispered as the bus put on its brakes. “I’ll be here when you get off to take you home.”

I wanted him to change his mind. I wanted him to look in the windows and see all those children who were at least triple my size and realized they could kill me if they pleased. As he pulled his body upright, I clung to his neck.

“I love you daddy!” I squealed in his ear, half sincere, and half new war tactic. After all, I was desperate. I could feel my heart literally drop as I turned to walk onto the bus, admit- ting defeat. I wiped my tears as I found myself taking my place on the last seat of the bus. I pressed my face against the glass of the window. The chill of it bit my skin, and so I bit my lip and focused on my daddy. My father stood stationary staring at me as the bus began to pull away. The air began to mist and I kept my face pressed to the bus window as I found myself inching away from my father. He stood there, un- flinching, like an old cypress oak in winter whose roots are firm and solid.

It may have been my imagination, or the mist on the window, but I could swear that in that moment, I saw my father cry. I couldn’t be sure from the distance, but from where I was sitting, I could have sworn I saw tears fill his eyes and his nostrils flare. I had never seen him cry before. Not when I fell off the handle bars of my bike and the smack of the concrete filled my mouth with blood, not when I stuck to my story about not stealing the quarters from his change jar, even though he knew I had. Not even when I wrote him a poem I was certain would bring him to his knees. But then, from the seat of the bus he had put me on, I saw it.

Sometimes I think that God is cruel. There have been times that I catch myself wondering how He can watch me down here, going through all this turmoil and just stand still. I wonder why He won’t just leap in and save me.

To this day however, when I think of love, I think of my dad putting me on that bus. There will always be situations that take you outside your comfort zone, but you still have to get on the bus. It’s the bus that makes you grow. It’s surviving something you thought you could never get through, that makes you strong.

I understand this now. And in those moments when I wonder where God is, I press my face to the glass of that bus window and I see that through the mist, He is still there. With tears in His eyes, He is rooting us through it. And just like with my daddy, when the brakes push and the wind blows, when the ride is over and you get off stronger, He will be there, just like He promised, waiting to take you home.

“. . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us . . .” (Romans 8:35-37).

–Heather Thompson Day, PhD, is a communication professor at Colorado Christian University and author of six books, including Confessions of a Christian Wife. Email her at: [email protected]