So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
We recently spent 3 wonderful days at an in-door-water-park. The first few hours of the first day, however, were a bit challenging. My little 5-year-old, Dylan, was very reluctant to get in the water. “Mama, I don’t want to go in because it’s going to sprinkle and make me wet…,” he’d say to my bewilderment. “But, Dylan!” I would reply impatiently, “this IS a water park…of course you are going to get wet!” “C’mon, be reasonable!” I thought to myself. After we realized that Dylan wasn’t going to just cheerfully dive in, I shooed my husband and my 9-year-old away, so I could flex my persuading muscles alone. “Where are Daddy and Grant going, Mama?” A very puzzled Dylan asked me when he saw them leave for the water. To which question I kindly replied, “to jump in the water, where else???”
Then, I took him for a walk around the park. First, we went into the kiddy area. There, I pointed out that little kids were, not only surviving the water attractions, but also having fun while at it! The visit to kiddy land bore no fruit, so we moved on to another fun and shallow play area. Within this site there where twin slides sitting side by side. My plan was to persuade him to try them by telling him that he would go in the orange one and I would go in the blue one and we’d race to see who wins! He is very competitive, so it was a great plan! Of course, it failed. It didn’t matter how I approached the challenge. He wasn’t budging. I used forceful commands, like: “you are going down that slide, Dylan, and that is that!” After all, I am the authority figure, and he is supposed to obey me, right? WRONG! I also used old-lame lines that parents around the world use when they want to entice their boys to do something they don’t want to do, like: “look at that little girl, Dylan, she is smaller than you and she is not afraid of the slide!” Like any parent at the brink of losing it, I also used threats: “Dylan, if you don’t go down that slide, you are NOT going to have any chocolate milk for a week!” All these to no avail, of course.
Finally, surrounded by other parents who were happily going down the slides with their happy children, I sat down on the floor, looked him in the eye, and I said, “I know you are afraid. It is OK to be afraid, but I’m telling you that there is nothing to be afraid of. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. Trust me! I am right here with you. I will be with you all the time. I would never send you to do something that would hurt you. I will be right there when you come down, waiting for you. I will be seeing you all the way. You don’t have to be afraid.” “Besides,” I added, “remember, you’ve been here before and you loved it! Don’t you remember?”
Later, as I thought about the incident at the water park, I was, once again, stroke by what the Holy Spirit whispered in my ears. “Where have I heard those words before?” Well, I’ve heard them from our Father’s Holy Word, of course. He is our Father and we are His beloved children. And, If we, “though [we] are evil, know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will [our] Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” He is our Father. He is our Good Father, who is always with us, as we cry “Abba” in our hour of fear. As our Father, He tells us “fear not” so many times throughout the Bible that we could possibly have a Scriptural reference about not being afraid, but fearing only God for each day of the year. He is with us; and, unlike our earthly parents, He is perfect and He never let go of us. He never leaves us, “for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6b) He doesn’t even become impatient with us for our lack of faith, for He is love and love is patient and love is kind.
The problem is that we are quick to forget how great our God is. We have been “there” before, and He has, as usual, gone with us, but we forget. We have faced fiery trials, gone into the lion’s den, challenged giants; and through it all, the Lord has delivered us. He has surely done great things for us, and we do rejoice, for the moment; but then we go back to our routine, unchanged. To our Father’s bewilderment, we forget. Then, inevitably, we face the hard times again, and we fear, again. We forget that He has always led us through the desserts of our lives; and how He gives us exactly what we need when we need it. We fear because we forget.
Let us change course right here, right now, and pray that the Holy Spirit will never let us forget. Let’s pray that He will help us remember that He holds our hand always. May we have a keen awareness that He will never leave us nor forsake us. This truth we must remember in all situations and rejoice in Him who upholds us with His righteous right hand! Praise be to Him who goes with us. Praise be to Him who “has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:7) In the scary hour, let us all proclaim at loud, for the enemy to clearly hear and retreat, that: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid” (Psalm 27:1)
With teary eyes and a frown on his forehead, Dylan finally let me lead him toward the slide. With hesitation and often looking back to make sure I was really “there” with him as I had assured him, he sat down at the top of the slide and down he went. I followed down on the one right next to his and we met up at the bottom. I got up and grabbed him tightly. Quickly, I carried him out of there, since the lifeguard was already blowing his whistle prompting us to vacate the area for the next sliders to be able to come down. “You did it!!” I said to him over and over again. “I knew you could do it!” “See, you are OK, and it was fun too, wasn’t it?” As we high-fived, I saw his face torn between a frown and a smile, until he finally admitted that he had liked it indeed. After that first “trial” slide, Dylan was able to enjoy our visit to the water park. I was able to tell him later, as we wandered around the lazy river, to remember that Jesus is always with us, and that every time we are scared, we can call on Him and He will hold our hand so we are not afraid. I don’t know if he heard me, since by then, Dylan was totally immersed in the fantasy of a watery vacation; but as for me, I pray those words continue to echo in my mind forever.