I hold out my hands and say, “Jump.”
My daughter stands on the edge of my bed, arms up and shaking. She giggles the way little girls do, part amused and part terrified. And she says, “I’m scared.”
“Why?” I answer. “You know I’ll catch you.”
“But what if you don’t?” she wonders.
“What if I do?”
“But what if…you don’t?”
She giggles again at the father/daughter version of Abbot and Costello and looks down. The carpet seems soft enough to cushion a fall, but maybe not a fall from that height. Her parents’ bed is high. Very high. High enough that if she stretched out her hand, she could almost touch the ceiling.
She’s torn. Jumping would be fun. Being caught would be fun. But jumping and not being caught? No fun at all.
But then I say the two words she really wants to hear. Words of assurance and truth. Words a father not only says, but means.
“Trust me,” I say.
Her giggle turns to a smile which turns to tightened lips of determination. She bends over and crouches down, ensuring her spindly legs give her the maximum jump possible.
In the movie that seems to constantly play in my mind, things always seem to progress in a predetermined manner designed to make me look as good as possible to the most amount of people. Unfortunately, that movie rarely compliments reality. Not only do I royally screw up from time to time, I’m often the victim of life’s cruel timing.
Because just as my daughter crouched down to jump, I started to sneeze.
I’ve never been able to stop a sneeze. I’ve heard it was possible, I’ve even seen some people do it, but it’s always been more of a postponement than anything else. My nose began to itch with fire, my eyes watered, and my head leaned backward. I was so consumed with what was happening that I couldn’t tell my daughter to wait. Just a second. That’s all I needed.
But little girls tend to be both impatient and steadfast in their decisions, and she had decided she was going to jump and nothing was going to stop her.
The moment she bounded from the bed and into the air was the very moment my head swung forward and sneezed, expelling both air and whatever else outward from my mouth in speeds up to 100 mph. I couldn’t cover my face because my arms were still valiantly trying to catch her. There was no buffer between my airborne germs and her airborne everything.
She winced in mid air, and that was the last I saw of her. Because not only is it impossible to stop a sneeze, it’s also impossible to keep your eyes open when it happens.
The full force of the air hit her square in the face and we collided, sending us flailing backward into the open closet. Arms and legs tangle with jeans and T shirts. The air smells of detergent and confusion.
I raise my head out of a pile of dirty socks to see that one of our legs has knocked over the hamper, and I fumble around for my daughter to make sure she’s still breathing.
But I don’t have to fumble. I hear. And I remember that the only thing louder than a little girl laughing is a little girl crying.
“You didn’t catch me!” she screams.
I pick her up and comfort her as best I can, and my wife sits her on the bed and scolds us both on the dangers of roughhousing inside. Band-Aids are deployed to cover nicks and scratches, both visible and not. But there’s no Band-Aid that can cover the fact that I didn’t catch my daughter. That she trusted me and I didn’t deliver.
Boo-boos mostly healed, we sit together on the edge of the bed and ponder. This is a powerful lesson, though one jumbled amongst bumped elbows and wounded pride.
Then: “God would have caught me.” She says it to the carpet and not to me. She knows she can’t hurt the carpet’s feelings.
“Yes,” I say.
“It was just an accident, right?”
“I still love you, Daddy.”
“And I love you.”
“But I think from now on I’m going to trust God more than you, if that’s okay.”
“I think that’s probably a good idea,” I tell her.
We both sit, silent but better, thankful that God can always be trusted. That He’ll always catch us, because He never sneezes.
For more stories about Trust, check out the blog carnival at One Word at a Time.