"Forgive me, Lord!" I pleaded, barely able to speak. So many of my failings, weaknesses, and sins boiled over into my awareness in His loving Presence that I felt literally scalded by my own stubborn and banal iniquity.
It is amazing how filthy something looks when held up close to something, or in this instance, Someone, so pure. The contrast between His sublime and beautiful righteousness and my feeble and self-justifying sinfulness was almost unbearable to me.
But He looked upon me with unreserved acceptance and unconditional love. He was not condemning me; that was clear. Nor did I feel the compulsion to dwell morbidly on my colossal and voluminous failures. Yet at the same time, it was impossible, in the holy radiance of His glory, to deny the simple fact of my sins, and to mourn over how they obscured His image in me. It truly grieved my spirit to know how far short of His glory I fell.
But none of that was why, at that moment, I wanted His forgiveness. No, it was my fearfulness. Not of Him, of course, but of life and loss on the planet below. Because I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that my fear was due to my imperfect love of Him. If I loved Him perfectly, I would have no fear. I felt the truth of that statement down to the very core of my being.
"Yes, My son!" He pronounced emphatically with a smile. "I have. And I do. And I will."
"I do not want to be afraid, my King, but I am, always. There seem to be so many threats and dangers below. So much potential for grief and pain that… I live my life in fear."
I bowed my head in shame at my admission. I had never felt less worthy or of so little value.
Amazingly, I felt His hand on my shoulder as He came alongside me, bearing me up, giving me strength.
Then suddenly, I was in another vision back on the world. I was in a large bookstore with my second daughter, born to my wife and I as Christians, another gift beyond price. We were together, my little one and I, in this crowded venue, and then, in the next moment, she was no longer in view. Gone. Out of sight.
The wash of abject terror that swept over me made my knees weak. I was barely able to stand. The blood was pounding through my arteries. Adrenalin coursed through my system as if I were about to be hit by an oncoming train. Without realizing it, I began to run through the aisles, retracing our steps at breakneck speed - God help any poor soul who did not leap out of my way. Countless, unbearable images flooded my brain. My little one! How could I be so irresponsible! How much more could I fail her as father, provider and protector. I was desperately, quietly frantic. Hours seemed to pass in slow motion. In reality, it was mere seconds.
I called her name in a cracked voice. It must have been loud because people turned my way. I did not care. They were not her. They were obstacles, obscuring my sight, crowding my vision, increasing my desperation.
In my mind I cried out to my Lord Jesus not to allow me to lose her. To save her from this horrid and miserable world that could shred a child's heart and mind and soul in an instant.
Then I saw her! Crouched down on her knees calmly perusing one of the many books around her, blissfully unaware of her father's faithless panic, and of the people around her.
I almost wept in heart-stopping relief. I wanted to scoop her off the floor and hold her fiercely in my arms forever, never letting her go, or risking her loss again.
I stifled the sob that threatened to escape my pitiful soul and embarrass my daughter and bring unwanted attention to myself.
As calmly as I could, I knelt down beside her through tear-filled eyes, unmindful of anyone else or the world around us.
She was safe. For now. This time.
She looked up at me and smiled like the loving child she was. Then her expression changed as she sensed the upheaval in my heart.
"Are you OK, Daddy?" she asked, so sweetly, so innocently, so trustingly.
"Of course," I said with false bravado, hugging her to me tightly.
"I just couldn't find you for a second," I said, "and I got a little worried." It was the understatement of the century. I was still shaking inside.
"Daddy," she said, "I saw you the whole time. I couldn't figure out why you were running like that. I'm sorry I scared you."
"It was my fault, sweetheart. Not yours."
"I wasn't lost. I knew I was safe. I knew you wouldn't leave me alone for more than a second. It's OK. You didn't lose me. I wasn't worried a bit. Well, except for the people you almost knocked down. I was a little worried for them," she said with that smile of hers; that smile that could melt a glacier.
I just continued to wordlessly hug her to me in the middle of the aisle, grateful to My God for being merciful to such a one as me.
"It was my delight!" He said from right next to me now. "I was with you. I was with your beloved daughter. And I rejoiced at your thankfulness."
"And yes, My son. I forgive you all of it. Always."