Thursday, June 13, 2013

In The Father's Grip

"My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; 
and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
John 10:29

Aren't you glad to know God doesn't ever let go?
Even when we fail.
Even when we squirm and try to wriggle ourselves free from His grasp.
Even when we give up on ourselves.

Jesus said that no man is able to pluck us out of God's hand.
The Apostle Paul said nothing can separate us from His love.
(Romans 8:38-39)

A father's love just won't let go.
It is all encompassing, completely unconditional, and extremely forgiving.

Kevin and Zach were getting ready to head out to Cool River Tubing
to begin another tubing adventure...afloat the Chattahoochee River.

Before we parted ways,
we bowed our heads together and prayed.
We asked God to protect them and bring them back to me safe and sound.

We knew the water was up from the recent heavy rainfall over 
the north Georgia mountains where we were vacationing.
They had gone tubing the day before and Kevin found the water level higher 
than he could remember seeing it in our past tubing treks.
He had told me about some drop-offs that were higher than I remember
experiencing when we've tubed there on past visits.

"Zach, make sure you keep your tube attached to Daddy's.
Don't separate from him for any reason.

"I promise, Mama."
Zach's tone was reluctant...
I knew he wasn't too happy with the arrangement,
but hoped he wouldn't forget his promise after he was out of my sight.
Usually, if I get a promise out of him,
it is like a safe guard for me,
because I know he takes promises seriously.

Evidently, not this time.
In this case, the desire for adventure must have overpowered the solemnity of the vow. :~)

All down the river, Zach begged and pleaded with his Daddy to cut him loose.
He wanted freedom.
Wanted to feel independent.
Wanted to break free.
Viewed the rope as an intrusion upon his liberty.
Resented the restraint.

Kevin told him no.
Over and over again.
He just wouldn't give in,
no matter how many times Zach begged.
The water was just too high...
the current way too strong.

Kevin is wise.

I am so glad he is.

It turns out that they were floating over one of the deeper parts of the journey,
when Zach's tube flipped over, flinging him into the river.

It scared him.

Kevin was right on it.
Since the rope was still in place,
Zach wasn't beyond his grip.
On impulse, he reached for Zach and pulled him back on to his tube.
All was well....
thanks be to God, most of all, 
and to Zachary's Daddy's quick thinking,
and the rope that held the two tubes together.

What if Kevin had cut him loose...ahead of time?
Like Zach had begged him to do?
What if he had tired of his continual asking
and gone against his better judgment,
allowing Zach to have his own way?
What if he had just thrown caution to the wind,
allowed Zach to break his promise to me,
and given him the independence for which he begged?

Granted, Zach is a good swimmer,
and he was wearing Cool River's mandatory life jacket.
But, the current was powerful,
and the pull was strong.

When I was a teenager, I knew an excellent, experienced swimmer, named Johnny,
who was swimming in the Miami River near where I grew up in Ohio.
We used to go tubing there,
and I clearly remember the rapids and how deep the water was, at certain points.
Johnny got caught in the undertow and lost his life,
because it was just too overpowering to conquer.
He underestimated the danger.
He was only 19.

Last night, Zach and I sat at our kitchen table.
I finally got the courage to ask the question I'd been wanting to ask
since the moment they came back and told me about the river incident.

"Zach, what exactly happened to you...on the river the other day?
Why do you think you fell off the tube?"

He hung his head....dropped his eyes.

"Mama, I'll tell you the truth.
It was all my fault.
I wanted to put my feet in the water.
I leaned forward.
That's why it flipped.
It would never have flipped if I would have stayed on it
like I was supposed to be.
You're supposed to sit like this, (he demonstrated on his kitchen chair),
and I was sitting like this.  (He pushed forward to the edge of his seat).
I knew better.
I still did it.
That's why it happened."

Zach had decided he wanted to soak his feet in the rapidly flowing water
and moved from his evenly-balanced position on the tube 
so he could dangle his feet over the side.
In doing so, 
he put himself in peril of falling overboard.
Had he been careful, 
had he stayed where he was supposed to be,
it never would have happened.

"What if Daddy would have given in?
What if you had been floating way behind him,
like you were the day before?
He wouldn't have been able to reach you, Zach."

I shuddered at the thought.
For some reason,
on that particular day,
I had begged Zach to stay tied to Kevin's tube.

As we sat there talking,
all I could think of is how many times in life I have been tempted
to dangle my feet over the edge....
just a little bit....
just because something looked appealing.
How I have moved from safety to indulge some foolish notion.
How many times I have been "flipped" because of my own carelessness.
How grateful I am that God never lets go of us.
How thankful I feel that I was never beyond His grasp....
that He was close enough to latch on, 
before I went completely under.

Looking back over my life,
I can see that.

Nothing has ever stopped Him from loving me...
nothing I have done or said has ever made him cut me loose.
Nothing has convinced Him that I wasn't worth the effort.
Even when I thought I knew best.
Even when I struggled for my own way....
and wished for things that weren't good for me.
Even when I pushed the envelope as far as possible,
setting my spiritual life out of balance and putting myself in jeopardy of self-destruction.

Toe-dangling in deep water is not wise.
No matter how good it feels.
No matter how refreshing it appears.
There are just certain paths we should never take.
There are certain gates we should never force open....
certain doors we shouldn't walk through.

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, 
but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Proverbs 16:25

We don't always know what is good for us.
We don't always do what is good for us...
even when we do know what it is.

We tend to think we always have things under control,
when in reality, we never do.

Instead of resenting God's commands as restraints that are keeping us in,
restricting our activities,
and prohibiting our self-indulgences,
maybe we should see them for what they really are....
protection, life-preservation, and a Father's loving care.

His laws are not in place to keep us in a place of bondage,
but to keep us out of danger.
Staying as close to Him and as far from temptation as possible
is absolutely imperative for a successful trek from earth to Heaven.

The river of life is full of hidden snares,
and obstructions.
Dangling too close to the edge is hazardous to our spiritual health.

The most capable of swimmers drown....when they lose respect for the strength of water.
Ace pilots lose control and crash....when they become too self-assured and take unnecessary risks.
Steadfast Christians stray....when they become self-reliant and think they can do this on their own.

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
I Corinthians 10:12

Staying connected to his Daddy by means of the rope provided to them,
kept Zachary safe in a crisis.
Remaining attached to the Vine, our Life Source,
keeps us safe through the storms and temptations of life.

It is imperative that we stay attached to the Vine.

Then, even when we flounder,
we are never beyond God's reach.
We are never outside His grip.

No man is able to pluck us out of our Father's hand.

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