The girl, maybe five years old, understood that this wasn’t the typical airport visit. She was the very picture of excitement. “Daddy’s coming!” She told strangers next to me in Gate A10. She held a poster. The simple words “Welcome Home Daddy” must have taken hours, if not days for her to color. Each childlike letter was a different color and design. The girl tried the poster out in every window as her mom bounced her baby sister. I know that the little girl wanted to see the plane coming, but she decided on a spot where she probably wouldn’t be able to see, because her mom told her that that was the spot where her daddy would best be able to see it. A few friends stood with the mom. They had posters, too. The plane was late. The twenty minute delay was enough time for the little girl to tell a few more people in the overcrowded gate, “Daddy’s coming!” as if he was their daddy, too, and they should share in her excitement. And they did; I did. I sat on the edge of my blue and gray seat as the door opened and people started filing off the plane. The terminal seemed to buzz with anticipation. Twenty or so people came out, first class, completely unaware of what was about to transpire. Then, the girl’s eyes lit up. Someone was coming, and he was wearing army green. She wrapped her little arms around his leg. The terminal burst into applause!
But something wasn’t right. He wasn’t sweeping her into his arms because he wasn’t her daddy. She got the wrong man. The kind soldier nodded at the mom and walked on. The “audience” paused our applause. The stumped, embarrassed silence stretched on for a few seconds. Then we started clapping again, because this man deserved a welcoming committee, too. But the false alarm increased the anxiety in Gate A10. Weary travelers moved on to their own gates. The little girl watched them all; she was going to be careful this time. She had gotten it wrong, in front of everyone, and she didn’t want to make a heart-hurting mistake again. A missionary group (lime green matching t-shirts) came through the tunnel. They saw the family and smiled. Many travelers stayed to watch, delaying their own reunions. Strangers waiting for the flight to Atlanta pulled out their phones to capture the moment. More people came off the plane. More stayed. I heard someone whisper the fear we all began to share, “Is he coming?” What if something had gone wrong and he wasn’t on this flight? What if we’d been hoping for nothing?
Still, the little girl clutched her poster. She held on to hope. Finally, he came. Her mouth opened wide in shocked excitement, as if seeing him was better than all she’d ever hoped for. She dropped her poster so that she could run to him with open arms. He picked her up and swung her into his strong arms. We cheered and cried with the family, strangers united by one reunion.
My Father’s coming back from a war he fought and won. Have I perfected my poster? Am I excited, so excited that others stop to see what’s got me so thrilled? Or am I too distracted my own mess-ups? I see great things and mistake them for the real thing. Little things file off the plane. I focus on my good works, but they are a false alarm when I make them more about me and less about serving Him. I focus on the way people think of me, and my hope gets a little bit more anxious. But I press on. I hold on, because a day will come and He will descend from the clouds. Will I let go of everything I’ve held on to for so long and run to His powerful, open arms?
Daddy’s coming. Am I coloring my poster or am I abandoning my hope? I can start by running to Him today.
*Disclaimer: The pictures are from the internet, not from the reunion I witnessed.