The boogie board is parallel to the horizon. The boy upon it bobs up and down with the surf with a tentative look in his eyes. He is sitting upright, tensely, as his father pushes the board further out into the deeper waters. The father’s arms are firmly holding either end of the board and the boy sits between them, holding on around his dad’s neck. As the waves get bigger he squeals a fearful squeal and practically climbs off the board onto his daddy, but the father assures him that he will not allow anything to hurt the freckled faced 3 year old as he pushes through the breaking waves.
I have a flashback to my childhood trips to the beach…riding the waves, not on boards but with our bodies. I remember the crashing wave that threw me under and twirled me like I was in a washing machine until I didn’t know which way was up. The water drug my body across sharp crumbled shell fragments and white foam prevented me from seeing my way out. It was the first time I experienced the power of the water. I was a fish at my pool at home, but in the ocean my confidence plummeted. I was tossed and tumbled like a toy boat. Suddenly I no longer liked the ocean. When I came up, gasping for breath, I decided that I would not be returning into the waves.
Later on in the day, my father went out into the sea. I stood on the shore watching and longing to be there with him, but my fear would not let me move from the sand. He called to me to come out. I refused even as I put my feet in the water. He called to me again to come deeper. I shook my head no and went in up to my knees. Then he came towards me…he came and lifted me to take me out deeper. Riding his back, the fear subsided. He would dive under the waves and I knew that as long as I held on I would be safe. My tentative start evaporated with each dive into the froth. Before long, I was confident enough to venture into the waves again, calling “Daddy, look at me!” after each ride into shore. I knew that as long as he was within my line of sight I did not have reason to fear.
The little boy’s giggle returns me to the present. He has made the transition from fear to fun. He is laughing as his dad jumps up to push the board over the waves before they break. He is soaked and still surrounded with his daddy’s arms. In a bit, they have disposed of the board and they are gliding through the waves…just like I did with my dad so many years ago…the boy holding onto his daddy’s back and smiling ear to ear.
I am amazed by the lesson of trust I am witnessing and have experienced. I marvel at how God uses fathers to teach his children about himself. He calls us to the deep and we hesitate. He smiles as he tells us it is safe. We shake our heads no while at the same time desiring to go. We put our toes in the sea to test the waters and he comes for us then…invites us to join him in the deep places, among the waves of his grace that wash over us there. If we are brave enough to take hold of him, we find ourselves in a scary-safe place…a place where our fear is overwhelming…until we see his smiling face encouraging us that all will be well. Until we hug his neck and go diving under the water and come up laughing at the freedom we feel from being immersed. Our confidence builds and soon we can navigate the waters freely and without reservation, calling out “Hey dad, look at me!” To which he laughed and says, “Way to go!” With him in our view we learn to trust his heart…and the lessons of the deep.