As soon as I looked over my shoulder at my eleven-year-old son, I knew something was wrong.
"’You okay?" I stopped swimming and began to tread water.
"Uh-huh," he gasped, straining to keep his face out of the surf as he dog-paddled toward me. "I guess so."
We'd been snorkeling around the coral reefs for nearly a half hour when I realized the tide had pulled us much further from shore than I felt comfortable with. Though Nathan had his life-vest secured around his chest, I could tell from his eyes he would not be able to swim the 200 yards to the beach, especially against the tide.
I moved closer and held out my hand. "Here," I said. "Grab hold and let me pull you."
Relief flooded across his face and he eagerly reached for my fingers. I’m not sure how long I pulled him through the water. Perhaps ten minutes. Maybe longer. I only remember my own relief when I tested the water’s depth and finally touched bottom. A few minutes later we stood on the warm sand.
"Thanks, dad," Nathan smiled as we slipped out of our snorkeling gear. "I sure got tired out there."
I also smiled – and at the same time kicked myself for allowing us to get caught in that dangerous situation. As we walked toward the car I breathed a prayer of thanks that we safely reached the shore.
"God is our refuge and strength." I love that promise. "A very present help in trouble. Though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea,” God is with us. Calling to us. Reaching for us.
I'm sure the Psalmist never went snorkeling with his son, but the Psalmist understood God’s protection. He knew from experience – just as I re-learned that day – when we’ve drifted far from safety, our heavenly Father is always alongside, reaching out His hand. As we strain to keep afloat and nothing stands between us and disaster, He calls out: "Here, grab hold. Let me take care of you."
Yet, though I’ve known this to have always been true in my life experiences, I am often bewildered when I meet people struggling through their own near-hopeless trials but won’t reach out and take hold of Him. I’ve even known some to have drowned -- lost their lives or their families -- because they thought they didn’t need His help; Or they didn’t want it.
How can we be so stubborn. Or stupid. Or spiritually blind . . .
Or a deadly combination of the three?