I did not know what to do for her. Her heart was breaking right in front of me. She so much wanted to be held, yet she shunned the embrace. Cradling her head in her hands, she sobbed, “I just don’t know what I am going to do! Nothing is working out the way I wanted it to. I’m so lost, so alone. I just don’t know what to do.”
My daughter had been struggling with so many things for so long. She had bottled them up in her tender heart and just couldn’t contain them any longer. She had wanted to be brave, to face everything on her own. But now, her second year of college nearly under her belt, she wanted to chuck everything into the dust bin and call it quits. It seems that life had been pretty hard on her for some time now and she just couldn’t face another semester of competing, doing and just being who she was. More than anything else she wanted to throw in the towel and stop the fight. Yet, sensing that she needed someone with which to share her deep sorrow, she had given me a call. “Dad, I need your help!”
“Dad, I need your help!” These are five little words that makes the adrenaline flow in any fathers’s being. The fact that a child puts you into the role of knight and defender can really become the wind beneath your wings. It can also become the fire within as it strikes a fear in your heart, not knowing what that help might require. As soon as I had taken the phone call I drove down to campus and found her sitting on the grass near her dorm. I could see that she was struggling and was deeply troubled. I sensed pretty quickly that nothing I said would have much of an immediate effect if any at all. How do you respond to “I just can’t go on!” Having nearly raised four children, three of them daughters, I had learned long ago that the locker room pep talk is a pretty ineffective tool at times like this. Broken hearts don’t need Vince Lombardi. Trying my best to comfort her, I encouraged her to think clearly before making a decision to quit everything. She was a top student on nearly a full scholarship. It seemed like such a waste. It wasn’t long before I began to grasp the tenor of the situation. It seemed that father and daughter were really not there for discourse at all. We were there merely to labor and work at the pain; to place our spades deep within the sorrow and shovel it out. Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting to leave her alone, I slipped my hand into her’s and began a long silence. Soon there were two sets of tears. The vulnerability within her had reached out and pulled me deep into the hurt. There was nothing I could do but go with the flow.
In The Four Loves, author C. S. Lewis writes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must given your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket––safe, dark, motionless, airless––it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” (The Four Loves, chap. 6, para. 13, p. 169)
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