It is so nice during the Christmas vacation to get some time with my kids. Breaking out of the normal routine and having some days to spend together has been absolutely life giving. During the few days off, we spent the night together as a family at Great Wolf Lodge as a Christmas present from my folks. If you’ve not seen GWL from I-5, you’ve probably been driving with your eyes closed as you pass Centralia. This place is huge, a 600 room water park-themed hotel built and designed for kids.
We journeyed down as a family with my parents and after checking in, were soon wet from the water slides. The facility is massive, with water slides, a wave pool, and lots of kiddie pools for the youngest. We played hard, we laughed hard, and we swam hard. It was a great night together.
In the morning we had a few more hours in the water park before departing. Baby Harper had headed back to the room for a nap with my mom so Heather took my daughter on one ride while my son told me he wanted to spend his last time in the park in the wave pool. The only problem is that my son isn’t a very strong swimmer. At age 5, he still feels much safer with a life jacket.
We headed for the deepest end of the wave pool just as the next set of waves was being cranked up. At their peak, the waves get rolling 3 or 4 feet, which is a rush for a small kid in a pool who himself is only 45” tall. He faced the waves going up and down and laughing like crazy. And though he couldn’t tell, my hands never left his life jacket. I let him use the full weight of his body to float, but my hands were positioned in such a way that should he need me, I was already holding him.
At the crescendo to the wave experience, as the pool around us was full of other swimmers and Kincaid was splashing up and down, he suddenly started to frantically swing his body around. Wanting to not lose my position, I swung with him, floating behind him. I was keeping him safe, but without meaning to, I was also keeping myself directly behind his line of sight as I stayed positioned behind his life vest as he swung in a full 360 degrees. His movements became more panicked and his face started to melt into tears and I grabbed him and held him close. “What is it?” I asked.
He said through the tears, “I was floating but I felt like I was lost.”
“But I was there the whole time, I was holding you the whole time.” I said.
“Yes but I couldn’t see you with my eyes,” he cried. And instead of explaining myself, I simply held him close. See, though he couldn’t see me, my hands were on his life jacket the whole time. In fact, my hands never departed him. I did this because I know my son, I know his strengths, and I know his weaknesses. And because of this, I know to keep my hands on him in a pool. My hands hadn’t left his life jacket, but because of my steady hold, he couldn’t feel me anymore.
The bible tells us that this is our story. The God who made us in His image, who loves us, and who has allowed us to know him, He has never departed us. Throughout the Old Testament, Father God walked with His people, at times literally residing at the outside of their camp as they journeyed to the Promised Land. And throughout centuries, the people continued to forget that God was right there. And so God sent His Son Jesus Christ to come and dwell with His people. To live with them and love them and show them God’s own heart. And though some followed, many didn’t recognize God in Jesus Christ. And yet, God never left us. Even after Christ died, rose again and ascended to heaven, He told His followers He would leave the Holy Spirit to dwell within us as we await Christ’s second coming. And now the Holy Spirit literally lives inside us as it says here.
As humans, we struggle with faith because we can’t see God with our own eyes. And at times in our journey, it feels like God has left us. But the God of the Christian faith promises us that He has never left us. He will never forsake us. Both the book of Hebrews and Deuteronomy explain this and I love the NASB translation of the Deut. Passage: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
The value of seeing things with our own eyes can’t be overstated. We want proof. We want to see things. But sometimes we can’t and we need to trust that there are hands on our life jacket. His hands. As one year ends and the new year begins, refocus your life on this great truth. God is with us. Like hands on our life jacket, He has never departed us. He keeps us safe. He knows us, and longs to know us more. He will not fail us or forsake us. Dwell in that promise and live into that calling. He holds us even now.