See that smile on my Savior’s face

Paul Dahlke crossing the finish line at the Disney Marathon, circa 2000-2001.

“Gonna run this race to my final step, / Gonna sing this song to my final breath, / And let the weight of this world go. / Gonna be no fear, gonna be no pain. / And when I see that smile on my Savior’s face, / I won’t be walking, / I’ll be running home.”- Cochren and Co., Running Home

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Hence, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”- 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)

My cousin Paul Dahlke reunited with his beloved wife of 48 years, Gerri, on February 25, 2024. For sure he ran to see that smile on Jesus’s face. Born almost seven months after Paul, I always thought of him as more brother than cousin.  Because Paul loved to connect with people and held his life-long friends very close to his heart.  And Paul included those friends in our activities so I would feel that too.

In addition, Paul passionately participated in fishing, hunting, basketball, softball, and running.  He loved outdoor activity so much that he often rode his ten-speed to and from his job as a delivery driver for UPS.  Above all, Paul’s deep faith and positive attitude moved all who witnesses his life and journey.  Especially the grace and peace he exuded in the face of unrelenting physical decline.  As poet and environmentalist Wendell Berry once observed: “There is a day when the road neither comes nor goes, and the way is not a way but a place.”

Writing in her latest book, The Gift of Limitations, Sara Hagerty describes our ability to live present.  The way we live present reveals how comfortable we feel sitting in Jesus’ lap in the yard He gave us.  Despite the circumstances.  And that involves a lifetime pursuit of trust.  So, as we look for, find, and keep reaching for trust, our generous God encourages us along the way.

That fruit, in turn, enables us to feel, see, talk to God, and engage His Word as we consider the next area He puts in front of us.  As we participate, trust grows slowly but steadily.  God’s promise of perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3) comes from our trust.

Furthermore, as we surrender to the stories God’s written for our lives, the mystery of God becomes more wonder and less hindrance.  Yet, Sara exhorts, in the loss a mystery exists that feels wonderfully freeing — wonder as opposed to angst.  An openhandedness rather than clinging, clutching.  Simply let Jesus wrap His fingers around you and lead you as you grow in radical trust.  Because Jesus is leading, not merely participating in, your life, you find yourself grateful to be known — and present.

In conclusion, Sara sees being present as the wonderful by-product of surrendering to the limited life God gives.  Above all, as the fruit of living present grows, even within firm fence lines and limits, we gain motivation to give more and more of our many thoughts to God. To lean in with our lives, fully present for others.

Therefore, Sara offers these words of encouragement and hope, as we run to see that smile on Jesus’ face:

“We can practice being present to what is right in front of us, but the fullest form of being present comes almost accidentally as we learn to lean.  Trust teaches us how to be present.  Not overnight, not willed, but over time and with steady attention to our hearts and His heart as we face our limits, as we create space in our minds to see a single minute an all that it carries.”

About the author

Dave Henning

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