Lost Moments

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This is a story that was inspired 
by my children, and of 
all the times that I've told them "no".  
I first used it in a sermon several years ago.  

Lost Moments

By Tom Lutz

             Stan steps out the back door of his family’s cabin on the lake and sees the sun dropping into the water of the lake that creates the western horizon.  A reality that has been slowly stalking him all week now pounces on its prey: the summer is over.  A chill races up his spine, and he realizes another summer has passed him by.  He remembers the first day of summer and how eager he was for the summer to come, so eager that he had gotten up that morning to greet the sun as it came up.  Now as the summer slips into fall he remembers promises he made to God, that he would not waste the blessing of the warm sun this year.  He brings to mind the list of things he had promised God that he would accomplish under that warm sun and finds only a very few of them actually accomplished and guilt creeps into his soul.

            Slowly Stan walks to his favorite place in the world, a park bench his grandfather had moved behind the family cottage when Stan was a child.  His grandfather had moved it there so he could sit and enjoy looking over the lake; the view was breathtaking.  His weight bows the old wooden slats as he sits and realizes how he has wasted this summer, sitting in front of the TV, watching men loose a child’s game.  Without forethought he bows his head and prays, “Lord forgive an old man, I pray.  I have sinned and wasted the gift of this wonderful summer.  I pray that you would turn back the days of this summer and bring me back to that first day of summer, and I promise you that I will not waste this gift a second time.”  He kept his eyes closed after the prayer, afraid to open them, but finally he did, and the sun was not rising on the first day of summer, it had sunk further into the lake.  He chuckled to himself and thought, “I’m a foolish old man to think that God would bend time and space to appease me.”

            Still amused with himself, he feels the soft touch of a hand upon his shoulder and hears the familiar voice of his daughter, “Lamenting the lost summer again, Dad?”

            Turning his head so that he can look into his daughter’s eyes he replies, “What?  How did you know?”

            “It’s what you always do on the last day of summer vacation.”

            He watches as his oldest child moves around the bench.  He is amazed at the size of her stomach from the child inside of  her; certainly it will be coming into the world very soon.  How she has grown over the years, not just in her body, but in her soul, soon now to become a parent herself.  Finally, settled in next to him, she looks at her father with a smile he has seen on her face so many times during her life. It is a smile that has never failed to brighten his outlook on life.

It is at this moment that his mind takes him back in time, to when the girl smiling at him was just 5 years old and holding a box of crayons in one hand and new coloring book in another.  “Daddy, Daddy, Mommy and I went shopping and look what she got me!  A new coloring book!  Will you color with me Daddy?”

“No, not right now honey, Daddy is tired.” 

His eyes behold once again the smile crumble before the weight of his words, and the soft response of his daughter’s voice, “Its okay, Daddy, maybe later.”

            His mind takes him forward in time, to when he came home from a long day's work and saw his daughter’s bike sitting in the middle of the driveway.  He remembers recoiling at the sight of it because, at nine years old, she still couldn’t ride a bike.  He had long given up the thought of teaching her how to ride it.  He remembers turning the door knob and being greeted with that smile bouncing and full of energy, “Daddy, Daddy, guess what?!  I learned to ride my bike today!  Will you come and watch me.”

Once again his response chills his soul as it crushes another one of her smiles, “No, not right now honey, Daddy is tired.”  He relives this lost moment through the vivid memory of her walking out the door, fighting the tears of disappointment, and saying, “Its okay Daddy, maybe later.”

            Now, as the sun sinks further into the lake, he silently scolds himself, “How dare you ask for a summer back so that you can enjoy the warmth of the sun once again!  What a selfish man you are!”   In response, he prays with all of his soul:  “Lord, please, I don’t want a summer back, give me back these moments, give me back all the times I told her no, and I promise you I will turn each one of them into a yes.”  Stan is terrified to open his eyes, afraid to find this prayer unanswered.  As he does, he sees the sun still sinking into the horizon defined by the lake, and drops of water begin their slow roll down his cheeks from their point of origin in the corners of his eyes.

            The tender touch of his daughter’s thumb brushing away the moisture under his left eye wakes him from his meditation on his disappointment.  “What’s wrong Dad?  Is there something you’re not telling me?”

            Still staring out at the sinking sun, he speaks in hushed tones, “Honey, when the sun sets on my life how are you going to remember me?”

            There is a sudden chill that races through Julie’s heart.  “Dad, I don’t want to talk about that, I just want to enjoy the sunset with you.”

            With a desperation in his voice his daughter has never heard Stan says, “Julie, please, it’s important to me!  When the sun sets on my life how are you going to remember me?  Are you going to remember all of the times I said no?”

            Julie slumps back in the bench overtaken by the unexpected topic, and she gathers her thoughts.  Gently she reaches out and puts her hand on his and looks into his eyes.  “Dad, when I think of you now I think of the time when I was nine years old and had just learned to ride that bike.  Thought I could do anything I wanted with the bike.  I was doing tricks in the driveway when my front tire hit a stone, stopping my bike, but not me.  So I went head over heels onto the gravel.  You heard me crying and came running to help me.  You picked me up into your big arms and carried me into the bathroom, and ever so gently, cleaned my scrapes and cuts.  Then you went and rented Evil Kneivel Videos.  We watched them together, and every time he had an accident you would look at me and say ‘See it could have been a lot worse.’  Then there was the time when I was sixteen and had come home early from a date.   My first boyfriend had broken up with me because I wasn’t pretty enough.  I will always remember you looking into my eyes and telling me that I was the most beautiful girl you had ever seen.  Dad, I’m not saying that all of those times you said ‘no’ didn’t hurt, they did, but I remember the ‘yeses’ far more.” 

            She then takes his hand and moves it to her stomach, which is round with life, and just as his hand touches her stomach, the life within her kicks.  “If you are still bothered by all of the times you told me ‘no,’ then remember how you feel when he, or she, comes to you with a coloring book.”

            It is at this moment that Stan realizes that God has answered his prayer!  Not by bending space or time, but by washing away his past sins and giving him brand new moments to live to their fullest.  He realizes that, too many times, he wastes moments in life worrying about moments he can’t do anything about, moments in the past.  Christ frees him from these lost moments and gives him brand new wonderful moments to live to their fullest.  So when his granddaughter is born her grandpa will always be ready to get on the floor and color with his gift from God.

 

 

For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

   

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