On Friday evening, after a day of oppressive heat and frustrating office trials, I was very happy to meet my wife and son at the community pool for some relaxation.
My son Robert has taken to the water quite well. He’s dependent on a life jacket at the moment, but he has no fear about jumping in the deep end and moving around the pool on his own. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor for several years before college, so I’ve been planning to “graduate” him to another flotation device that would encourage him to be a more self-sufficient swimmer.
We had a grand time together. The late afternoon sun’s low, hazy glow kept us warm, but not uncomfortable. The water’s temperature was perfect. We engaged the pool attendant in friendly, light-hearted conversation. And, of course, there was plenty of playful splashing to go around.
After enjoying the water for a couple of hours, we decided to head home for a late pizza dinner. We climbed out of the pool and began stowing the myriad pool paraphernalia (noodles, kick boards, goggles, beach balls, inner tubes, etc.) for the walk home. As I busied myself with deflating a beach ball, I heard Robert making sounds as though he was struggling with something.
I turned around and, to my horror, I saw him in the pool — sans life jacket — thrashing frantically in an attempt to keep his nose and mouth above water. He wasn’t succeeding.
It was one of those moments when time freezes; in fact, the memory of that sight has yet to leave my mind’s eye. The abject fear and panic in his eyes is what I can’t forget. When I saw him, he was already looking at me; his wild gaze screamed, “Daddy, I’m going to die! Rescue me!”
How long he had to wait in frenzied agony before I noticed his predicament, I don’t know. That’s something else that still haunts me. If I had been in his shoes, the thought, “If he doesn’t see me, I’m going to perish,” would have been looping mercilessly in my mind.
“Robert!” I cried, and jumped in to grab him. I hoisted him out of the water, and he coughed for so long and with such force that he vomited on me. As I held him and patted his back, I heaved a sigh of relief. Thank God, he was okay. I handed him off to his mom so she could comfort him, and climbed out of the pool to get cleaned up.
Apart from being a bit shaken up immediately after his ordeal, he recovered admirably. He showed no fear during a visit to the pool the next day. I, on the other hand, broke down in tears after we got home that evening. That’s as close as we’ve ever come to losing Robert. And I was haunted by the memory of his eyes, wild with fear as they were fixed upon me.
The odd thing was that God’s voice unmistakably broke through in the wake of all that chaos and upset at the pool. In an instant, I remembered the story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, when a huge army was arrayed against Judah — one they had no hope of defeating.
Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and called upon the people of Judah to seek God for help. They gathered in Jerusalem to pray to the Lord, and they ended their prayer by saying, “God, we are powerless, and we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
Just like Robert. He was powerless to stay afloat or to save himself. He didn’t know what to do. But his eyes were upon his daddy.
And this was how God spoke to me: “You ran to your son’s rescue without a second’s hesitation. How much more will I rescue you when you get in over your own head? Am I any less moved by your trouble when you look to me deliverance? Will I not come to your rescue, and quickly?”
A teachable moment, to be sure, and right in line with the a fortiori reasoning that Jesus applies to the Father in his teachings (Matt 7:11, Lk 12:24-28). Do I think God arranged for Robert to almost drown just to teach me something? No way. But I serve a God “who causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:38). In other words, nobody can make the best of a less than ideal situation like God can. Isaiah puts it this way: He exchanges the ash-heaps of our lives for beauty (Is 61:3).
And nobody does rescue like He does.
aka The MonT-SteR