It was November 2000 when my twenty-something-year-old daughter, who shall remain anonymous, called me in tears. On her way to a concert in Atlanta, she had been stopped not once, but twice, by the police — an amazing feat I hoped that neither she, nor any of her four siblings, would ever repeat. I still recall her surprise at my response to her tearful, embarrassing confession of the latest auto-related episode.
Was I upset with her ticket? (She only got one.) Yes, of course. First and foremost, I was concerned about her driving safely. No doubt, my auto insurance rates would be impacted. But, there was something far more important to convey to my daughter than concerns about money or a car.
Soon afterwards, it occurred to me to seize this teachable moment as an opportunity to explain in more detail my thoughts about her back-to-back “blue-light” experience.
Here’s the email I sent:
Precious Daughter of Mine,
You called a few days back to tell me about your speeding ticket and being stopped not once, but twice, on your way to Atlanta and the N’Sync Concert. Apparently, my rather calm response surprised you. You were obviously expecting a more animated, if not angry, reaction on my part. It occurred to me, after we talked, that you may have misinterpreted my reaction as one of indifference. Far from it, I would call it a controlled response. Allow me to try to put into words my thoughts about it all.
You are the apple of my eye. Your sisters, brothers, and you are the most precious of all God’s creatures. I pray for you daily and give thanks to God for His blessings unto me. You are one of those blessings.
Over the past few years, I have come so close to losing all of you. Every one of you have been in one or more accidents, a number of which could easily have resulted in serious injury or death. That each of you are still with us is more a testimony to God’s sovereignty than luck. He obviously has something more for all of you to do, otherwise…
So when one of you calls and tells me of a ticket or a minor fender bender or some other inconvenience, I only think of a few recent cases of the tragic loss of others and count my blessings. And I pray that these little wake-up calls will not result in anger or some sort of indignant response on your part, but rather a humble, thankful heart that recognizes that God’s mercy has just been poured upon you.
Life is short. It seems only yesterday that your mother and I were crazy teenagers in love. Yet some people say go for the gusto, live for the moment, play fast and hard. If age has taught me anything, it is that life is precious. And as time marches on, each day must be lived not in a devil-may-care style, but rather in recognizing that your time on earth is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to Him.
So slow down, fasten your seat belt, count your blessings, and learn to be a blessing to others. You already are one to me.
I could have ranted and raved about her careless driving. I could have reprimanded her about the importance of being a defensive driver. But it wasn’t the time for a lecture. It was, like so many occasions, a teachable moment to remind her that there is nothing more precious to me and her mom than her.
I hope my words and actions during my forty-seven years of fatherhood have reinforced that message with all my children.
No doubt, my daughter will never forget her twofold encounter with local law enforcement on that day’s drive into Atlanta.
I pray she also never forgets my response.