Last weekend, I sat in church and thought about hayrides and parenting.
It was the 1992-1993 schoolyear. I was an education major at God’s Bible School in my final year. To fulfill my student teaching requirement, I was helping in the high school department of God’s Bible School.
What made the experience a little unique is that some of these high school students were also my friends. We lived in the same dorm, and I even shared a class with a few of them in Symphonic Wind and String Ensemble.
So, when I showed up to the high school field trip because I was a student teacher, I also had a hard time not being in student mode.
Everyone was in high spirits on the two hay wagons. The students were laughing and talking. Some of the students on my wagon saw friends that they really wanted to be with on the other wagon. The mood was hilarious as they jumped off our wagon and ran to the next one. They scrambled up on the other wagon. It was so easy. They called out to me to join them.
In a moment of insanity, I forgot that I was the “teacher” and decided to join my friends (forgetting that I’ve never been very athletic). None of the real adults on this field trip knew what was going on. I jumped to the ground and ran to the moving wagon, hoisted myself up, and didn’t make it all the way.
Suddenly, I was slammed to the ground as the wheels of the wagon ran over my arm and leg. The only thought in my brain was to roll out of the way so I didn’t get run over by the next wagon also.
Some of the students felt the bump when I had gotten run over, and the whole high school field trip came to a halt. Everyone watched as I was helped onto the wagon.
I was humiliated that the “teacher” was being foolish. I spent the rest of the evening feeling so embarrassed. I was in intense pain, but I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s evening as the hayride continued.
When I got back to the dorm that night, my college friends convinced me to go to the hospital. As I waited to be checked out, I thought I might as well let my dad know what was going on. These were the days before cell phones, but I was able to use a hospital phone. I still remember basically how the conversation went.
“Hi, Daddy,” I said, “it’s me, Elizabeth.”
A cheerful voice answered. He was so happy to talk to his youngest daughter. “How are you doing?”
Cheerfully, I answered back, “Oh, not too well. I just got ran over by a hay wagon.”
Daddy’s mood was not affected. “You did?” he questioned. “Are you sore?”
“Yes, I am,” I told him. “I’ve come to the hospital to the emergency room to get checked. I need to go now.”
“Ok, Sissy,” he told me (still cheerfully), “love you. Goodbye.”
As I got off the phone, I couldn’t help but chuckle. I knew that the only information that Daddy knew was that I had gotten run over, and I didn’t know if I was all right. And he had happily gotten off the phone.
I understood it. I happen to be a lot like him. Sometimes I parent my children the exact same way. At times my reactions have been similar, like the time that the school called to tell me that my husband had just collapsed and that they were calling an ambulance. “No, no!” I told them. “We don’t have insurance. Take him in your car.” Later I was embarrassed at my words.
And that day in the Cincinnati hospital, I knew that Daddy might regret his words also. Sure enough, I found out later that it didn’t take long. A few minutes after I hung up, he told a couple of my sisters the story. He nonchalantly said, “Elizabeth’s been run over by a hay wagon, and she’s at the hospital.”
My sisters came unglued because they don’t have Daddy’s personality. That’s why I was chuckling at the hospital. I knew what was going to happen, and I knew they had no way to reach me to find out how things went.
My dad loved me intensely, but he wasn’t always tuned in. Sometimes he was distracted. I’ve been there, desperately wanting what is best for my children, but just so distracted.
But that’s not my God! My God is the One Who “lovingly guardeth my footsteps and giveth me songs in the night.”
After my youngest daughter was saved in March, I was awake part of the night. I wanted her to make it, and I knew that she would be in a spiritual battle—a battle that she would have to fight herself. The next few days, as I tried to cover her with my prayers, the words came to me “tenderly I’m kept with jealous care,” and I understood it! I understood the way this word “jealous” was used—with the tenderness of a watchful mother.
In the story of Ruth in the Bible, Naomi told Ruth that Boaz would not rest until he had taken care of her need. I think of that when we sing “nor rest ‘til He had planned to bring me nigh.” No wonder C. Bishop wrote in his song that this was “Such Love!” Haven’t we gotten “handfuls on purpose” dropped carefully for us?
This is not a distracted parent! This is One Who is guarding your footsteps with full plans to take care of your needs. He is tuned in.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. Psalm 121:3-5