He followed me home from school every day, but I never knew it. When I was in the first grade and only six years old, the walk from school to my grandparents’ house took about thirty minutes. Walking to and from school during this era wasn’t unusual; nevertheless, I felt very grown up. What I didn’t know at the time is that my grandfather followed me at a reasonable distance to make sure I arrived home safely. It wasn’t until many years later that my mother told me this sweet story.

Today, when I close my eyes, I can see my tall Papa; his Fedora straw hat and his fragrant pipe that I loved smelling when he was around. Thinking about him hiding behind trees trying not to be seen by this six-year-old makes me smile. Of course, at the time I would not have been happy knowing I was considered too young to make the walk by myself. Looking back, however, I see the wisdom exhibited by my loving grandfather to keep an eye on his grandchild. I also recognize the deep compassion he showed, not wanting to take away my sense of independence while at the same time keeping me safe.

How many times throughout my life has my heavenly “Papa” been present and I didn’t know it? Hindsight makes the answer clear. The times are plentiful when I chose reckless over reasonable, pride over prudence, and independence instead of seeking God’s direction. Still, He never left me alone. Seeing the bigger picture today brings tears to my eyes. Knowing the Lord gives me free will to learn and mature in my faith walk while making sure I “get home” safely is a tender reality I cherish. God knows the Way home; It’s Jesus! “Thank you, ‘Papa’ God.”