“How is your soul?” the man asked his little girl.
She rocked back and forth on her toes, her pigtails and dress swaying softly with her. “It’s okay, I think.”
“Yeah,” she said. “I think it’s good. I like my soul.” She held in her small arms a big, red box. The box was falling apart, it seemed. Tape here and there held it together and the red was faded. She held it tightly against her chest. “I like it.”
“Hmm,” the man said, placing his big hand on his chin and stroking it thoughtfully. “Good, huh? I don’t think so.”
The little girl frowned. Didn’t he believe her? She wouldn’t dare lie to him; she loved him. Her soul felt good. Yes, it felt happy, even though it was broken and tattered. Wasn’t her soul supposed to feel this way? The man lowered his hand and reached for hers, as if they were going on a walk together, like they did before she got her big, red box. She moved to place her small hand in his but quickly realized that if she wanted to hold his hand, she’d have to let go of the box. She hesitated.
The man looked down at her with warm, blue eyes. He lifted his eyebrows softly, waiting. The little girl looked down at her box.
“Daddy, can you just hold one of my ponytails?” the little girl asked after a minute. The man chuckled and shook his head softly.
“No, child,” he murmured. Still he held out his hand. “It doesn’t work that way.”
The little girl was quiet again. She was sad, she realized. Daddy wanted to hold her hand but she was still holding her box. But she liked her box; she liked it very much. Should she put the box down? At the thought, her hands clasped tighter, afraid of letting go. No, she liked it too much. Daddy still looked at her with his eyes. She liked Daddy’s eyes too; they sparkled.
“Daddy, can I just walk beside you?”
“No, child,” he said sadly. He blinked a tear from his eyes and was silent for a moment. Why was Daddy sad? “You won’t be able to see where we are going. Don’t you want to hold my hand?”
Pain spread through her heart at the question, and the little girl began to cry softly. Yes! Yes I really do, she thought. I want to hold your hand, Daddy! But… The little girl blinked. Why couldn’t she hold Daddy’s hand? It seemed so silly. He was offering it to her, all she had to do was take it. Take Daddy’s hand! she told herself. She moved to grab his hand again, releasing the right side of her beaten box. It slipped–her hand was inches away from Daddy’s–she pulled it back–caught the box–and fell down.
Plop! There she sat, in the mud, her pretty white dress ruined with brown splotches of dirt and green stripes of grass, and in her hands was the big, red box. She caught her breath, laid her head on the top of the box, and began to cry. Daddy, I fell down. Why didn’t you catch me? Daddy, I’m hurt. Daddy, where are you?
“Oh, child,” she heard her father cry. He was weeping next to her, one hand covering his mouth and the other still stretched out toward her. “Oh, child. Please. Please, take my hand. I love you.”
The little girl did not like hearing her Daddy cry. She cried some more, her head still on the box. Daddies shouldn’t cry, they are Daddies. Daddy must be really hurt that she wouldn’t take his hand. She lifted her head and tried to stand up. But her hands were still clasped around the box. It suddenly seemed very heavy. She couldn’t lift it anymore. It sat heavily on her little legs and she couldn’t move.
“Daddy, I can’t get up. Will you help me?” the little girl asked. Daddy looked at her, his cheeks still wet.
“Take my hand, child.”
“But, Daddy, my box.”
“Take my hand.”
The little girl looked down at the box again. She saw how worthless it was, how beaten and bruised it was. She saw the old tape strapped around it, trying to hold it together. It was just a box, no matter how much she liked it. Maybe, Daddy will just hold it for me and then I can hold his hand. She thought that was a wonderful idea!
“Daddy!” she said. “Will you hold my box?”
Daddy smiled at her and said, “Yes.” The little girl giggled with excitement.
“But,” Daddy began. But what, the little girl complained to herself. “But you have to give it to me. Once I have it, it is not longer yours.”
But it’s MY box! she thought. I’m the one who fixed it up whenever it got hurt. The little girl frowned at her Daddy. “Daddy, this is my box,” she said. Then she pouted her lips and stared at him.
Daddy looked sad again. “Are you sure you don’t want to hear the best part?”
“No!” she yelled at him. “It’s mine and I like it!” Her little face bunched up into a deep frown and she stared at the box with greed in her little eyes. Daddy sighed sadly above her. She looked up to see Daddy crying again. Her little hear broke and no matter how hard she tried to stay defiant, her little heart couldn’t bear to see her Daddy crying. Why can’t Daddy just let me have it, but He hold it? she thought miserably. It’s mine but I need help. After awhile, she just had to ask Daddy why, she just had to. And what was this “best part” he was talking about?
“Daddy,” the little girl said slowly. “Why can’t it be mine and you hold it for me?”
Daddy lowered himself into the mud next to the little girl, dirtying his white suit just like her pretty white dress. He looked at her with his sparkly blue eyes and smiled softly.
“Do you believe that you will get lost unless you hold my hand?” he asked.
The little girl blinked. “Yes, I can’t see the way. Sometimes it’s dark and scary and sometimes I fall down.”
“Yes. And your box is the only thing keeping you from holding my hand, from going on a walk with me.” Daddy looked down at the old box in her tiny hands and the little girl followed his gaze. “That box is too heavy for you, yes?”
“Yes, and it’s broken. I tried to fix it, but it keeps getting broken and hurt and torn.”
“That’s because you can’t fix it on your own. You need help. Do you think you need help?”
Tears filled the little girls eyes and her heart grew warm. She didn’t know why, but she suddenly felt desperate. “Yes, Daddy!” she cried. “Yes, I need help!”
Daddy’s big hand wiped away her tears and she stared at him wide eyed. “I can help you, child. But you have to let go of the box. I can take it and make it new and pretty. Would you like that?”
The little girl’s heart was screaming YES! But the words weren’t coming, so she nodded her head vigorously.
Daddy smiled at her and said, “Then give me the box. Only I can fix it and only I can hold it for you. You can hold my hand and walk with me and I will lead you home. But this box has to stay with me, only then will it be safe from harm. Do you understand?”
The little girl looked down at her box one more time and nodded slowly. “Yes, Daddy,” she said, looking up at his sparkly blue eyes. “Yes, I understand. Will you take my box and make it new, please?”
“Yes, of course, child. And then we can go on a walk.”
When asked how my soul was doing in a small group this week, this was my answer. I could not shake the image of a child stubbornly holding onto her broken box while her father simply wants to hold her hand and help her through life. While I am still in the “but it’s mine” phase, this is how I hope to continue as I learn how to give God my box of regrets, bitterness, passions, and fears. I’m learning to surrender; it’s painful but necessary and I can’t wait to see where God takes me.
So I’ll ask you, too. How is your soul?