I want to tell you about the time when I was a bride for a day and how I wore white to walk down an aisle between picnic tables under a pavilion in the park.
It was a simple wedding with bagged lunches and tables filled with baskets of candy and Korean treats. I remember the wind blowing through sheets of sheer curtains and my bouquet of flowers, stuffed with roses and blue thistles.
The night before, I sat in the hotel room with my bridesmaids — those friends who became sisters — making memories forever seared into the heart, no matter the many miles between.
There we were, stuffing gift bags for guests and thinking over last-minute details for the big day to come. There was a moment, in all of our laughter, when the room grew small and everything seemed to move in slow motion. There was laughter and chatter, friendship and fun, but I needed something beyond that moment — something that only a father could give.
I slipped outside the room and stepped into the hallway of the hotel. Then I knocked, ever so gently, on the door across from me. It swung open.
“Just needed a Dad hug is all,” I said, falling into the arms of my father.
The moment lasted all but a few minutes. Even so, it was everything I needed for that day and to be carried into the next. This magical memory of my wedding, of having my dad within arms reach and not 1,851.2 miles southwest in San Antonio where he lived, reminds me of the fragility of family. It reminds me just how many of us are missing pieces from the puzzle of our lives. Mothers who move to different states, children who chase professional pursuits in other cities and countries, grandparents who’ve gone off to live how and where they’ve always dreamed, fathers who — for whatever reason — are far from us.
Sometimes, these missing pieces — these people — can be gathered. Sometimes we can travel through time and space to see them. But, sometimes, the pieces — our people — can’t be put back together again. It could be distance. It could be death. It could be danger. It could be disagreement.
It reminds me when Jesus told His disciples — those best friends who became brothers — how He’d soon be leaving them and how the Holy Spirit would come and be with them in His stead (John 14:15-31). And, goodness, am I ever so desperate to be reminded of the Holy Spirit who came — and still comes — to tangibly fulfill the felt needs of those who follow in His footsteps.
The truth is that there is not one day in all of the Gregorian calendar, Chinese calendar, Jewish calendar — or any calendar for that matter — that gives time and space enough for the vast nuances that come with being human. New Year’s Eve will always fold out and be forgotten, Independence Day will always remind us of the ways we are not yet fully free. Mother’s Day will not always bring the depth of rest that mothers crave, and Father’s Day will not always fulfill our hearts to feel the love of a father.
And I know that the words on this screen cannot touch you in all the whole and hurting places that coexist within you. These words cannot replace the love of those fathers that should have been there all along, protecting and teaching their children how to tie their shoes and change their tires.
But the Holy Spirit can touch you — the Holy Spirit can reach deep into every hidden place you hold within your heart. The Holy Spirit can meet you in the chasms on the calendar — the gaping holes in which you are waiting to see and sense love show up on a day like today.
The Holy Spirit is present, even while you are in pain, and He holds space for your heart, like a hug wrapping you up in the arms of a loving father. He whispers:
I am not a distant God. I am closer than your skin, thicker than the air you breathe. My love is louder than your loneliness. I am with you — in the surgeries, in the emergencies, in the celebrations, and in every mundane moment in-between. I am holding out My hand to you with more than a hug for you. I promise you My presence.
The words from one of my favorite worship songs go, “There is a God who loves me, who wraps me in His arms.” (This song is available and beautiful to listen to in both English and Spanish.) As you move and love and celebrate and cry through this weekend, may you embrace this truth: You are held in the arms of your Heavenly Father, and His love is a hug for you.