There is a picture on the wall of my father and me. I am still a little boy, no more than three or four years in age. My father is still a young man; we might say that he is in the prime of his life. In the picture, we are standing on the front porch of the house where we lived when we first moved to Tulsa. I am grasping the black railing that surrounds the porch. My father is towering above me, waving toward the camera. It’s an old black and white photo, and a snapshot of life.
A wave is such a friendly gesture. A kindly raised hand is a greeting that calls to others and tells them that they are welcome. It is an observance that says we have recognized one another even if we cannot be close enough to speak the words. It is a longing to reach across the time and distance and grasp the hand that is now raised. It is a parting gesture that expresses gratitude for having seen you and desire to see you again.
I have seen my father’s raised hand many times. Once or twice it was raised behind me, just before being applied to the seat of my pants. I have also seen it raised while standing in a baptismal pool as he prepared to immerse someone into Christ. I have seen his hand raised as he gestures in the midst of a point in a lesson. I have seen his hand raised at many times and for many purposes, but never have I seen it raised in anger. It was the same hand, much the same gesture, and truly from the same heart.
I have often thought of the picture of that young prodigal as he neared home. The burdens of his life must have seemed so great. He had seen a side of life that he may have wished he had never seen. He knew his own mistakes. He had even come to accept his losses. He was not the same young man who had left his father’s home, not so long ago. It must have been quite a journey, as he trekked toward home. There must have been wonder in his mind, even as he rehearsed his apologetic speech. He did not know what kind of reception would meet him. Then there was his father. What a marvelous picture it is. There is all the depth of emotion that anyone could desire. It was that young reprobate’s father that was running to greet him. What an embrace it was. It would be hard not to be touched by that moment. It would be hard not to feel the power of that embrace, and to be enveloped in the genuineness of that love.
So, we pass through the years. We may not wander as prodigals, but still we wander. As the line of the song says, “I found myself further and further from my home.” Then a picture calls. It is a remembrance that touches on so many things. It is a hand raised to wave and gesture through the years. It is a siren call to love and value.
Visits to home and my father are far too short now. They are filled with love and admiration. As I leave, there is always a familiar scene. My father stands at the edge of the driveway, in front of his house. There he raises that hand and waves. He is an old man now, and the days are more precious. I don’t know how many more times I will see him wave to me. But I will not forget them, and see them as one.
I will not hurry the day, but the thought of a poem by James Whitcomb Riley comes to mind.
With a cheery smile and the wave of the hand
He has wandered into an unknown land,
And he left us dreaming how very fair
I needs must be since he lingers there.
I hope you get the picture.
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