We were nine days into this deployment when my daughter broke to pieces. At three years old, time is not hers to understand; so when nine days had passed and Papa still had not returned, when she still was told it would take longer, when nine months might as well be never, she fell apart.
Curling into her pillow, snot-shooting, chest-heaving sobs racking her little pixie body, she choked out the same words she has choked out every night since David left: “I didn’t want my papa to go to Afghanistan.”
“Shhh. I know. I didn’t want him to go, either… but he will come back to you. It will take a long time, but he will return.”
We named this daughter Havilah, christening her only moments after she emerged from the birth tub with a deep set, smily dimple. The word Havilah in Hebrew means “stretch of sand” but the Book of Genesis describes the land of Havilah as the place where gold is found.
“Out of a stretch of sand God brings forth gold…” I whispered into her hair as an infant, and I whispered again now. “Your name is an oath of hope. Good things–life, beauty, bounty–will come.”
Holding her, I realized: she can only see through this glass darkly. The rest of us, the three eldest children, David and I, we see through the glass more clearly. We comprehend beginnings and endings. We have heard enough stories and lived enough life to know that conclusions always come. The king returns, the lion awakens, the war ends, the princess is kissed, the chosen people conquer the promised land. Eventual, yearned-for conclusions are sometimes the best kind in the great stories, and soul-knowledge like this pulls even the five year old through. Thus, the rest of us count off days, wrap our minds around seasons, understand that nine months–though it takes hundreds of mornings and evenings to pass–will end and can end well. We hold a hope logically rooted in experience, story, and trust.
But sweet Havilah, with merely 3 years of life under her feet, needs a hope that only faith can provide.
The parallels sweep me. This child’s experience with her father’s deployment echoes the very crucible of Christianity. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am also known.” It’s love this daughter needs–if I read the verses before this–love that will carry her through. For love suffers long, and it is love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It’s love that remains until we see face to face.
Havilah needs what we all need in this faith journey of life. She needs love from us, yes, and she needs encouragement from us to keep her own heart loving, enduring, hoping. She needs help holding her heart open, too; a gentle love that encourages her to maintain the look of expectation at the door.
Havilah needs God’s faithfulness. We who see through the glass darkly find ourselves dependent upon the mercy and faithfulness of God. And so, as I held her in the shadows I listened to the Spirit make promise to manifest his presence in her life. Yes Lord, I whispered, let her know your faithfulness; let her know your mercy, your grace, your comfort and your joy; let her know your peace.
If trials can be our gift, and fire our producer of the good, may this stretch of sand, Sweet Child, yet yield gold. May you walk in the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, and may this year yet reveal the prophetic hope etched into the very letters of your name.