Joshua Rodgers

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A mystery on the playground — and a bottle full of tears

By Joshua Rogers

Joshua Rogers

When I stopped by the park for a visit the other day, there were only three people there: a father, his preschool son, and a middle-aged guy walking his dog. Not long after I arrived, I overheard two conversations that left me intrigued.

I saw the dad step away from the playground to retrieve his jacket that was lying in the grass, about five yards from the dog walker.

“How’s it going?” asked the dog walker.

“I’m doing all right.”

“Just all right?”

“Actually, things are awful.”

“Oh,” the dog walker said. “Well, this too shall pass.”

The dad didn’t even crack a polite smile.

“Maybe it will pass,” said the dad, “but it’s going to take a long time before it does.” Then he turned around and walked back to the playground, where he resumed playing with his son.

The dad’s response to the dog walker was intriguing enough, but then I heard him say something to his son that far eclipsed the mystery of his frank admission that things were awful.

In a warm but sad voice the man said to his son: “I just want you to know that I love you and you didn’t do anything wrong.”

It was a strange thing to say to a preschooler, and the man’s voice was such a contrast to the sound of the little boy, who was climbing on the equipment and squealing with delight. The dad repeated himself and almost sounded like he could cry: “I love you, son, and I want you to know that it’s not your fault.”

The comment begged several questions: What did the preschooler do — or not do? Why was the dad repeating himself? Why did his voice sound so tired and sad? What was it that was so “awful,” as he described it to the dog walker?

I got up from the bench where I was sitting and walked away, giving a slight wave to the dad. He didn’t notice. He was focused on the boy.

While the man’s story remains a mystery, the grief in his voice is familiar to all of us. Many of us carry our own burdens — the heartache of things that can’t be shared, the awful news that’s far too private for a status update. It hearkens to the days of Sunday School when prayer requests were solicited and someone with downcast eyes would simply say, “Unspoken.”

In those times of pain, I remind myself that there is a heavenly Father who knows the grief of the man on the playground and He knows your grief as well. He understands because He has experienced your sorrow through His Son, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). That grieving God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NASB). To Him we can say, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle” (Isaiah 53:3, NLT).

If you are living with private pain — if you can relate to the weary sound in the young father’s voice, remember this: The Lord is acquainted with your grief. He is, with every tear, mending your crushed spirit. He is close to your broken heart. You are not alone.

Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too. 

Joshua Rogers is an online news source covering Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi


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