The Lord will always hold you close – that’s HIS way – no matter how YOU feel about itIan
“Sprit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.”‘Hillsong
I sat shaking on the beach looking at the waves in front of me. I could feel my heart beating – even in my ears. My adrenaline was still coursing through my veins. I was in shock. I started the regular breathing needed to calm my body down. I had just experienced the worst five minutes of my life. I had threatened the safety of my five years old son through my stupidity and I was about to have the strongest personal encounter with God I would ever experience.
What started only 30 minutes before as great fun had teetered so near to disaster I felt physically sick. My five yrs old son, Joshua was running back to his Mum and little brother to tell of the great fun we had just had in the water, but I was trying to hide my emotions, hide the shaking in my arms and legs, hide the terror I had felt.
It was a beautiful day in Cornwall, UK where we staying on holiday. We had decided as a family to go to one of the wonderful nearby beaches for a day trip. This beach was particularly popular. A perfect cove with wonderful bright green and blue colours, seaside smells and regular crashing waves. Sea, Sand and Sounds.
You could close your eyes and breath in creation.
On one edge were some rocks to watch out for. In low tide you could see them, but when the tide was high they were hidden just under to surface and they were jagged. I pad no attention to them as we started – they would mean everything to me later.
After settling in on the very crowded beach, Joshua, asked to play in the water. In the UK it’s considered good parenting and safety to make sure your children can swim a little, so Joshua had had some swimming lessons since a baby and was perfectly confident. The confidence of every 5 year old boy when he has his Dad next to him.
It was a lovely warm day. Hundreds of people were on the beach. I took Joshua out into the water to splash and play.
After a while Joshua wanted to go deeper into the water and bounce in the waves. It was a very flat beach so I decided to put little Joshua on my shoulders and walk out into the rolling waves for some fun. Joshua was holding onto one finger of each of my hands with his entire little hands. I can remember even now – 20 years later the wonderful heat, the reassuring waves and Joshua’s giggles of delight at of the waves which cane about every 20 seconds
We settled on a depth that meant as each waves approached I would say ‘Oh no – here comes a big big wave!” and I would then jump in the air with Joshua on my shoulders as the wave arrived to stop the water rushing over us. I would even bend my knees before each wave came to add to the excitement. We did this for about 10 minutes, with Joshua calling out ‘Deeper, deeper!” with each wave. Slowly – each wave – to get more of a thrill I stepped deeper.
It was idyllic and great fun – little did I know what was about to unfold.
I realised that with each wave, I had slowly, inadvertently, moved more and more towards the rocks that were at the left side of the bay. I decided we would have to start ‘hopping’ deliberately away from the rocks as we jumped with each wave.
Having seen how near the jagged rocks had become, I then looked out to sea.
Suddenly I saw a huge wave coming towards us. this wave was not like the others – it was so high, it would engulf me and Joshua who was sitting on my shoulders, we would be pushed off our feet and be out of control.
All parents know this feeling – the terror of emotions that fill you when you realise that your child is not safe.
We were trapped – a parent’s carelessness. I only had seconds to think. My instinct was to protect Joshua.
I realised that the best way to ensure Joshua was safe was to put him in the water wrapped in my arms and shield him from the wave. If we fell over – if we lost control and hit the rocks – I would use my body to shield his – I would be hit first.
I couldn’t do that whilst Joshua was holding my two index fingers in his little hands, so I had to do something that in the surface would have alarmed Joshua. I broke Joshua’s grips on my fingers so I was ready to hold him. Just as the wave hit us, I shouted, “Hold your breath”, grabbed his mid area and pushed him down under the water but wrapped in my arms. I pushed away from the rocks as much as I could.
The wave hit us.
Everything went into slow motion for a few seconds. The power of the wave hit me quite hard and knocked my breath out. I had curled up into a ball and it felt like the wave turned me over so my head was near the sea floor and rocks. I was still holding Joshua very tightly, but he was pushing and struggling to get away and get some air.
I didn’t mind if I got injured – I prayed to the Lord – I thought, ‘Even if I get injured – Lord, at least let me stay conscious enough to keep Joshua safe’. That’s what I was thinking, but all I say in my mind was one word ……. ‘Joshua’.
I waited for my body to naturally rotate in the water for a few seconds and then pushed my legs out. I found the floor, and stood up. I was still out of my depth, but I changed my grip of Joshua and pushed him up in the air so he could reach air and breath. After around 29 seconds in total the wave subsided and I too started to get air.
As soon as I could, I pulled Joshua down and checked him for scars and blood – nothing.
I turned immediately and started running as much as I could toward the shore line. It was exhausting, and after around 30 seconds we reached the shore and I put Joshua down in the shallow water and we walked out of the water into the beach and sand.
As we sat there, three things happened. First I was full of an overwhelming urge to hug Joshua forever. After a few seconds , I started shaking and third, Joshua said, “That was FUN – let’s do it again”.
Strangely, that moment of tumbling in the sea, with my baby son wrapped tightly in my arms, that moment where time slowed down, where I had my heart cry for my son, was still not the most memorable encounter of the day.
It was there at that moment, on the beach, that the Lord spoke to me and gave me the most significant and most important lesson I needed for my entire life and Identity. There on a crowded beach …..
Why did you break Joshua’s grip on your hands?
Because I realised what mattered was not how strong he could hold me, but how strongly I could hold him. I am the strong one.
Why did you wrap him in your arms?
To reassure him and protect him from the rocks. I would hit first – he was safe
Why did you tell him to hold his breath?
Because I could see what was coming and I needed to prepare him for what to do
Why did you want to hug him forever?
To show him how much I really loved him and that that love was the most important thing in the world to me
Now, instead of you holding Joshua, picture me holding you. I am your Father….. I will always hold on to you. I will always protect you. No matter how tightly you hold on to me, When it looks like I break your grip of me, it’s only because I want to hold you. I can hold on to you much better than you can hold on to me, Ian Sometime when you struggle, and feel I’m not giving you freedom, it’s because I am protecting you. Even if you can’t see it – I can see it. All I ever want to do is hug you and watch you grow.
That was fifteen years ago, and I honestly can look back at that day, as the day my feelings towards my Spiritual Father, and my view of our relationship was completely settled. I have sometimes struggled with other relationships in my life, but not with this one.
Last year, as I wandered around a market in Africa looking for a present for my wife, I was recognised from a nearby conference I was speaking at, and a crowd started to form round me asking for healing prayer. The first lady was pleading for prayer for her ovarian cancer. The crowd and situation was nearly overwhelming. As I prepared to pray, the Lord reminded me of that day and the waves, and I felt wrapped in his arms….
I’m not telling you that story to point at me, but to show that inside me, all things point to him and knowing your sonship is everything.
As I finish this first chapter, can I challenge you? At some time in your life, you and the Lord need to settle your relationship and identity in a way that is fundamental and foundational.
It becomes something in you that is as certain to you as breathing. That doesn’t meant you don’t have ups and downs, doubt, occasional fear, but at no time in these, have I questioned who my father is and who I am. As one of my friends says…
“You need to now WHO you are (your identity) and WHOSE you are (his identity)