by Gary Rosberg
I was sitting in my favorite chair, studying for the final stages of my doctoral degree, when Sarah announced herself in my presence with a question: “Daddy, do you want to see my family picture?”
“Sarah, Daddy’s busy. Come back in a little while, honey.”
Good move, right? I was busy. A week’s worth of work to squeeze into a weekend. You’ve been there.
Ten minutes later she swept back into the living room. “Daddy, let me show you my picture.”
The heat went up around my collar. “Sarah, I said come back later. This is important.”
Three minutes later she stormed into the living room, got three inches from my nose, and barked with all the power a five-year-old could muster: “Do you want to see it or don’t you?” The assertive Christian woman in training.
“No,” I told her, “I don’t.”
With that she zoomed out of the room and left me alone. And somehow, being alone at that moment wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. I felt like a jerk. (Don’t agree so loudly.) I went to the front door.
“Sarah,” I called, “could you come back inside a minute, please? Daddy would like to see your picture.”
She obliged with no recriminations and popped up on my lap.
It was a great picture. She’d even given it a title. Across the top, in her best printing, she had inscribed: “OUR FAMILY BEST.”
“Tell me about it,” I said.
“Here is Mommy [a stick figure with long yellow curly hair], here is me standing by Mommy [with a smiley face], here is our dog Katie, and here is Missy [her little sister was a stick figure lying in the street in front of the house, about three times bigger than anyone else].” It was a pretty good insight into how she saw our family.
“I love your picture, honey,” I told her. “I’ll hang it on the dining-room wall, and each night when I come home from work and from class, I’m going to look at it.”
She took me at my word, beamed ear to ear, and went outside to play. I went back to my books. But for some reason I kept reading the same paragraph over and over.
Something was making me uneasy.
Something about Sarah’s picture.
Something was missing.
I went to the front door. “Sarah,” I called, “could you come back inside a minute, please? I want to look at your picture again, honey.”
Sarah crawled back into my lap. I can close my eyes right now and see the way she looked. Cheeks rosy from playing outside. Pigtails. Strawberry Shortcake tennis shoes. A Cabbage Patch doll named Nellie tucked limply under her arm.
I asked my little girl a question, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“Honey…there’s Mommy, and Sarah, and Missy. Katie the dog is in the picture, and the sun, and the house, and squirrels, and birdies. But Sarah…where is your Daddy?”
“You’re at the library,” she said.
With that simple statement my little princess stopped time for me. Lifting her gently off my lap, I sent her back to play in the spring sunshine. I slumped back in my chair with a swirling head and blood pumping furiously through my heart. Even as I type these words into the computer, I can feel those sensations all over again. It was a frightening moment. The fog lifted from my preoccupied brain for a moment—and suddenly I could see. But what I saw scared me to death. It was like being in a ship and coming out of the fog in time to see a huge, sharp rock knifing through the surf just off the port bow.
Sarah’s simple pronouncement—“You’re at the library”—got my attention big-time. I resolved right then to change—to be a daddy who was there for his kids, who didn’t spend every moment studying or at the office, who was an active participant in his children’s lives. Sure, it might slow down my career ambitions a bit. But I desperately wanted my daughter to know that she was the pride and joy of my life—and that she could show me her latest drawing anytime.
It was time for this daddy to get back in the picture.
How well I understand the struggle Dr. Rosberg describes in tonight’s story. Shortly after the birth of my daughter, Danae, I finished my Ph.D. and the whole world seemed to open up to me. Radio and television opportunities were there for the taking, and a book contract sat on my desk. I was running at incredible speed, just like every other man I knew. Although my pursuits were bringing me professional rewards, my dad wasn’t impressed. He wrote me a long and loving letter, gently expressing how great a mistake it would be if I continued to pour every resource into my career and failed to meet my obligations to my wife and infant daughter. He said that my occupational success would be pale and unsatisfying if I lost the love of those I cared about most. Those words shook me to the core and made me reexamine my priorities.
Satan once attempted to entice Jesus with the “authority and splendor” of this world (Luke 4:6). He will try the same with you, making every effort to lure you away from your family with temporary treasures and pleasures. When your day is so filled with “important” activities that you don’t have a moment for your spouse or children, it’s a victory for the devil. Don’t listen to him!
Time is a precious resource that, once lost, can never be recovered. Let’s spend it in a way that creates joyful, eternal memories for the loved ones under our roofs.
- James C. Dobson
“Family Picture” by Gary Rosberg. From Guard Your Heart by Gary Rosberg (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1994). Used by permission of the author.