Recently I was vividly reminded of one of the most beautiful and dramatic manifestations of God’s goodness - His protective nature and care. In a ‘suddenly’ event, my appreciation for His fatherhood and depth of love has been re-highlighted. Here’s what happened.
A few weeks ago my family and I fly back to central
for my niece’s sweet 16 birthday party and to reconnect with family and friends
at one of the gulf coast beaches. It is such a rarity for all of us to be
together, so naturally we jumped at this wonderful opportunity. Florida
On my last day at the beach just before flying home, I walked down to the surf to spend my last few fleeting minutes talking with family members. Some were sitting by the edge of the water while others were playing in the warm churning water. I realized as I stood there enjoying this very special time that I had been at the beach several days and had never taken a walk. I was grieved that I was getting on a westbound jet in a few hours, yet, had not thought to take my wife or children on a stroll down the beach. At that very moment our 10-year-old daughter Lily was emerging from the waves. I asked her to take a little walk with Daddy before I left, which she gladly obliged. As we strolled playfully hand-in-hand, we talked and laughed and kicked water on each other’s legs. Good memories. Now I could head to the airport in peace.
When Lily and I returned to the spot where my family was camped, we only found sandy towels and empty chairs. Being around noon-time I assumed that they had all gone up to the rooms for lunch. However, it was at that time that I learned a far different story was taking place.
During the week, several family members had been talking about wading out to a sandbar within a short distance of the shoreline. Lily had voiced emphatically that she too wanted to be part of that experience. In the short period of time that Lily and I were walking, four of my family members, including my wife, decided to walk out to the sandbar. While treading out, a violent rip current associated with the approaching tropical storm Debby swept them all like rag dolls out into the Gulf of Mexico! As hard as they swam, they were growing tired and helpless against the aggressive current. The party began screaming for help, trying their hardest not to panic; however, they all knew that they were up against something far bigger and ominous than they could realistically handle. This ‘suddenly’ could easily have been the end for all four of them.
Although I had no clue what was happening; I was just enjoying a sandy barefoot jaunt with my little girls - Someone was watching, aware and able.
In what many would label a mere ‘coincidence’, a few random jet skiers showed up in the vicinity and a full parasailing boat was returning from an excursion far out into the gulf. In the nick of time, my family was rescued by these fellow vacationers, pulled into boats and ushered to the shore where paramedics were waiting to evaluate each of them. To the praise and glory of God, all emerged from the water deeply shaken and weakened, but healthy and exceedingly grateful.
As we comforted each other tearfully, we began to evaluate this very frightening event. For instance, was it a coincidence that I felt a strong impression to take my daughter on a walk at that very odd and random moment, just before I left? If I hadn’t, Lily would have been swept away with the rest, and would not have survived. Was it just ‘the stars lining up’ that the four who went were the strongest swimmers in the family? Or that the jet skiers just happened to be in the right place at the right time to execute a rescue? How about that parasailing boat?
Upon returning to my room to zip up my suitcase, I pulled out my travel bible and read Psalm 91. The words of the psalmist’s assurance in the protection of God mixed with what I had just dramatically experienced firsthand drove me to my knees in tears of gratitude. Life could have totally changed that day for all of us; yet God proved again His reliability, graciousness and never-ending goodness.
I was reminded of a story I had heard about the manhood training by native Americans in days gone by. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning the basic skills of hunting and scouting, he was presented one big final challenge. Blindfolded, he was led my male tribal members deeply into the dense forest where he was to spend an entire night alone. Imagine the terror! The boy was lost, disoriented, far from the presence and comfort of family and friends, and strangely and dangerously vulnerable. In his mind, every snapping twig was a wild animal ready to pounce! However, as morning dawned, the boy gained confidence and assurance as he began to finally visualize things around him in which he was familiar. Then, to his utter astonishment, the boy would see a figure standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there with him all night long.
Friends, God knows when you’re afraid. He knows that there are many dangerous things in your life – things that threaten you physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet, through it all, He is that father who stands faithfully with you throughout the night, armed and mighty, more than able to protect us, and to fill our hearts and lives with the peaceful and matchless assurance of His presence.
Simply because He loves you.
And there is nothing you can do today to change that fact.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” – Psalm 91:14