The saying “behind every face, there’s a story” is, at its core, an invitation.

I noticed a little girl at the airport recently who, by the intensity of her focus, stood out among the crowd. The events that soon unfolded were so tender and affecting that I was moved to write the following narrative, which, though fictional, is based upon the spirit of the actual events.

She was standing high on her tiptoes trying to get a better look, her eyes sweeping the crowd, pausing every few moments to survey the faces of the men who emerged from the long tunnel. As each one passed by she checked off to herself, “Nope, not him. Nope, not him.” It was not her father. She was seven now and hadn’t seen him in four years. When she tried to recall what he looked like, the image was incomplete, formed mostly by the photograph her mother showed her at night when they prayed together. Still, she had a few memories that were all her own. He had a big smile and he was strong. And when he came home at the end of each day, he would greet her by lifting her high up in the air, always followed by his funny laugh and her admiring outburst of “Daddyyyy!” She adored him with all her heart.

The airport was getting busier now, the single-minded crush of people tired of being with people. Her mother pointed to a soldier and said “Daddy will be dressed like that man over there.” Duly reminded, she continued her search, only this time selecting just the men who were in uniform, then matching each varied expression with the memories that she preserved and wore like a badge of honor on her soul.

Our reunion with God will be astounding. When we see God’s face, it will be like no other. He will smile and His smile alone will lift our souls higher than they’ve ever been. And much like when we wake from a dream to find that reality readily eclipses those patchwork images from moments before, in Heaven, we will at once distinguish that God’s face outshines all others–that His is the one we have been seeking all this time. For now, God shows us glimpses of Himself in the faces of others–faces that reveal circumstances of joy, and circumstances of pain. And He uses these glimpses to teach and strengthen us for our journey, to inspire others along theirs, and ultimately to prepare us for the day when we will be reunited with Him. For instance, when God wants to equip us with a greater sense of compassion, we soon recognize the telling expression of someone wearied from immense struggle. Before, we wouldn’t have paid much notice. This time we are pulled in. We feel for them. We have compassion. Over time, we get better at spotting other hurting and weary people, and God invites us to fill that space in their lives with His love. It works the same with all the other human emotions, the good and the bad, worn across the faces of our fellow man–humanity reflecting its need for God.

The procession from the corridor slowed. The girl nervously tapped her fingers together, now even more keenly focused on the thinning crowd. She had seen the faces of many soldiers and in them saw stories of courage, of sacrifice, and of love–nuances of expression which typically only vaguely register with a girl so young, but which, given the proportions of the occasion, she seemed to apprehend in full. But still, none were the right face. Then, while scanning the last trickle of activity, she spotted a man in uniform. She narrowed her eyes to shield out all other distractions and focused on his smiling face. There was no hesitation. She knew immediately it was him.

Her arms reached ahead the instant she started to run. Simultaneously, her father sidestepped the blur of kindred travelers and raced toward his little girl. Four years compressed into a moment in time. She jumped and was lifted high in the air. He unloosed his distinctive laugh, and she cried out, “Daddyyyy!” for all to hear. Through his tears, this dedicated, never-give-up soldier sobbed, “I’ve missed you sweetheart. I love you so much.” Her daddy was home.

This girl saw a face in the crowd. This girl saw her daddy. This girl saw a hero. Played out across America, thousands of others see the same when they look upon the war-weary faces of their returning fathers. Heroes, all. God bless these men, and all the little girls who love them so.

Behind every face, there’s a story. And with each story we choose to enter, God shapes our character thereby.

I hope this encourages you to enter a story today.

-Kevin Murray
© 03/20/2014 All rights reserved