I am off work today and I am between semesters in my scholastic pursuits so I found myself with the rare opportunity to do whatever I wanted. I drove my wife to work this morning and then, on the way home I decided to enjoy an egg in anonymity and do some reading. About half way through my meal a man and woman were directed by the hostess to a table diagonally across from mine so that the man’s face was in my view along with the back of the woman’s head (as she was sitting opposite him). Now, as a disclaimer, I don’t normally eavesdrop on conversations. This is, in the interest of full disclosure, not because I am above it or not good at it, but usually because I am too busy to allow myself to spend 15 minutes building back stories based on the tenuous foundations of observation and conjecture. But today I had time.
It appeared to be a father and his daughter, who was likely in her late teens. It seemed, from the bits of the conversation that were loud enough to be deemed public record, that the father was driving his daughter to college. Whether this was her first semester away from home or if they were veteran collegiate travelers was not completely clear. But what was clear was the inevitable discomfort that accompanies these kinds of transitions.
At one point the young lady pulled out her iPhone and attempted to give her father a lesson on how to use Skype. To his credit he did an adequate job pretending that he understood how a little rectangular screen could ease the ache in his chest at the prospect of dropping off his baby girl in a strange and foreign land.
The father rubbed his face a lot, as if he was trying to keep his skin clean of the stains of concern and irrational fears that must have been visible to the rest of the world. He, like most men, was faithfully holding the stalwart line of masculinity as he pretended that his pancakes and eggs wouldn’t become the fuel for the nervousness in his bowels that had, up until now, only been reminding him off this day’s coming. He bounced his leg in a way that reminded me of a patriarchal rabbit signalling the rest of the bunny-nation that there was trouble coming. He never once, at least that I saw, looked around the restaurant; he looked at his little girl and drank her presence in like a camel at an oasis.
She tried to look grown up. It has always been a point of fascination to me how much trouble women go to in order to look as if they casually threw something on just out of the shower. It takes hours of preparation and untold hundreds of dollars for a woman to look care-free; ah the irony of the fairer sex.
They were two creatures whose time apart may have amounted to very little over the years. And here they were, attempting to figure out which one had betrayed the other, knowing that the parting would be more sorrow than sweet. Perhaps both a bit guilty for feeling some sense of relief and excitement at the prospect that they would, in one case be able to enjoy some peace and quiet, and in the other enjoy a time of solo flight.
It all came down to this moment.
And the curious thing is that now that the time had come, they both realize how clumsy they feel trying to squeeze 18 or 19 years of memory and love into a 25 minute breakfast. But they also begin to feel the frustrating reality of the inadequacy of the moment to hold all that they want it, that they need it, to; not to mention the simultaneous pressure to actually fit everything in with any sense of fairness. What apocalyptic consequences might they incur if they don’t say everything they need to say, or reassure each other properly? There is both an inescapable necessity in goodbyes as well as an intolerable foolishness and silliness in them. We know in our hearts that we were not designed to leave each other. Whether that be father and daughter, husband and wife, best friends forever, or cowboy and horse – there is something inside of us that beckons at and bargains with the universe – crying out for more time, for more depth, for more understanding…just for more of anything.
And it was at that moment that I realized I wasn’t thinking about college orientation, I wasn’t thinking about a father and a daughter, and I wasn’t thinking about merely saying goodbye. At that moment, friends, I was thinking about heaven.
These clumsy and silly moments that we come to in life, the ones that we do our very best to squeeze all of the moments into at once, they exist because we know that the clock is winding down. This father knew that he would only have so many chances to sit at breakfast with the curly-haired baby girl that he had walked and whispered to for countless nights some eighteen years ago when she was eighteen pounds. So how could he make this trip without trying to see every moment at once? Isn’t that some sort of betrayal?
Whether he knew it or not, and whether we recognize it or not, those longings in us to attempt to mash all of our life’s joys and sorrows and successes and pleasures and regrets and fits of laughter and oceans of tears into one moment is our heart’s cry for something eternal. I have no idea what the spiritual condition of those two were that I sat across from this morning, but what I do know is that over eggs, pancakes, and coffee, while they thought they were feeling the butterflies of college and life transition, they were hearing the echoes of eternity in their souls.
Friends, I wonder if we can hear those faint and distance notes in that song that God sings to us. You know the one. He sings, “you are more than this moment, you are bigger than what you see.” He calls to us to know Him, to come to Him, to see Him, and to look forward in hope to the day when days begin to never end. Then we will know what it means to never say goodbye, to never weep at the passing of our loves, and to enjoy breakfast with our daughters without the pressure of it being our last.