I called Thaddaeus into shore to give him the 5 minute warning and told him he could ride two more waves in and then it was time to go. It had been a wonderful day at the beach as we enjoyed cousins and grandparents visiting from out of town. I recall telling my sister earlier as we were out boogie boarding that it was a great day to come because the waves were bigger than usual. As I went back to start packing up our stuff I heard my wife call out my name. I looked up and immediately started running out. Rip current! Our son and four of his cousins were much too far out and drifting further with only my sister out there to help.
Thaddaeus’ name means, “God’s Gift.” We named our first born that to remind us always in good times and bad that he is a GIFT and that he belongs to GOD. In a letter I wrote to him on the day he was born I said, “You are God’s gift to us. I pray that we would always remember that you are not ours, but a gift given to us from the Heavenly Father.” We chose James 1:17 as his life verse,
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Sometimes when parenting him is difficult I use his name to remind me that he is indeed a GIFT given not simply for my enjoyment but also for my sanctification. God has often used Thaddaeus as his chosen means to reveal my need for grace and dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit to love him well. However, even more often I have to remind myself that he is GOD’s and not my own. He is simply mine to steward temporarily – to love, serve, and protect – knowing that ultimately he belongs to a perfect Father in heaven. This is an often difficult truth because it means that I am not in control. I cannot control if he obeys or not. I cannot determine if he will ultimately put his faith in Jesus and receive eternal salvation. I cannot even unfailingly ensure his safety and well-being in this life, let alone in the one to come.
As I rushed out a fresh set of those “bigger than usual” waves started to roll in again. What had earlier been cause for excitement now became my worst nightmare. A lifeguard rushed past me seeing the same looming danger. The first big wave destroyed me. I wasn’t going to make it. I was helpless. If I ventured any further out it was evident that I may become more of a problem than a solution. I saw my sister in between the two youngest trying to steady them on their boogie boards. “Jesus save him,” I prayed. They were just beyond where the big waves were breaking, but I knew that if a large wave knocked him off his board he would be in serious trouble. I had already felt the ocean’s power. Another life guard rushed past while sirens started going off on shore. “Get back in,” he yelled to me as he swam past. “My boy is out there,” is all I could muster in response. I remember thinking how small his little body looked on top of those giant swells. He was in God’s hands now. There was nothing more I could do.
As parents, our kids’ safety and health is often cause for anxiety. It can consume our thoughts and sometimes haunt our dreams. We can take steps to guard it and to promote their well-being as best we can. Yet, inevitably there will come a time when we realize how little control we actually have over our kids’ safety and health and the decisions they make. There will come a moment for most of us when we realize how helpless we are in reality. I have felt it holding a lethargic baby with a 105 degree temperature, seeing another baby stop breathing, and I felt it that day on the ocean.
In all these cases God gave his precious gifts back to me safe and healthy again. The last one even ended with a laugh as our son pondering what had happened on the car ride home spurted out, “I rode the biggest wave ever!” However, moments like this cause us to reflect and maybe even doubt. We may ask – Is God really good? Is God really trustworthy? WHAT IF God took his precious gift away? My wife and I have found that WHAT IF is the fuel for anxiety. WHAT IF…fill in the blank with any negative scenario in your own life? We all have our WHAT IFs that can cause us to doubt God’s goodness and create in us an anxious heart. We have learned to combat it with the true statement of EVEN IF… EVEN IF we lost this precious gift God is still good. He is still trustworthy. He has proven and demonstrated his love for us and all those that we hold dear by sending his own Son.
When Jesus cried out on the cross his Father turned his face away so that we can know with certainty that he will never turn his face away from us when we cry out to him. Nothing, not even the worst circumstance we can imagine, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Son of God has conquered sin, death, and evil for us when we were completely helpless in our sin! If God is for us, who can be against us? We have a good Father who is worthy of our trust. We can trust him with our very lives, and we can trust him with all his precious gifts to us. After all, isn’t he the one who gave the good gifts in the first place? Yes! Every good gift you have ever known came down to you from the Father of lights! And it is he who gave us the most precious gifts of all – Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. In Christ we have all the assurance we need to know that we are truly and eternally loved by our perfect Father with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. – Joshua Moffit
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” - Psalm 73:25–26