Only the truly magnanimous and strong are capable of forgiving and loving.
- Kim Dae Jung
We’re in Michigan on our favorite lake. Higgins calls to us, each summer, and has for twenty years. We dipped baby Logan’s feet in the cool, clear waters before he learned to toddle over the sand.
Five sons learned to swim head-under in the shallows. Grant lost his two front teeth when a wayward beach ball hit pearly whites that were dangling by threads in his sunny smile. The lake holds memories, sweet and dear and deep, beautiful as the water’s sparkling shades of blue.
Today we’re in the boat and Isaiah has decided to tube by himself. We buckle his pass-down life vest. Inflate the rubber tube. Skim over to a shallow place where the water is turquoise. Zay jumps from the back of the boat and lands on tube with a thwump! He looks back over his shoulder and his grin says I’m big enough. I’m big enough now.
Logan leans down and pushes on the tube. The rope stretches to allow Zay a safe distance from the boat. The tube drifts far and all is well.
Until Lonny starts the motor.
Suddenly Zay is frightened. What seemed fun and safe and adventurous now seems threatening. I’m at the back of the boat, and Isaiah is too far out for me to see the fear in his eyes. But his summer-brown face scrunches and his body is taught as he kneels on the rubber ring. His mouth is opening and closing, and I know he’s crying.
Lonny cuts the motor and then we can hear the sobs.
“I don’t want to do this,” he says. “I don’t want to do this alone.”
I know that Isaiah has looked forward to this time, this place, for many months.
“I’ll go with you,” I shout. I buckle my own vest. Jump in. Swim to where the tube bobs over the blue. And when I reach him, when he lies tummy-down and I’m on the tube beside him, see tears falling free.
“It’s okay, Zay,” I say. “I’ll keep you safe. You’re not alone.”
I slip an arm around my small son. He smiles. His hands curl over the handle, and my hands curl over his. I nod and Lonny starts the motor.
And as we skim along, I’m overwhelmed with tenderness for my son. I understand being worried and afraid. Uncertain and alone. Out of my comfort zone. When suddenly the water seems threatening and cold and safe comfort seems far.
It’s then that I call on the Lord.
Father, come hold me. Put your arms around me. Let me feel your presence. Take care of me, Father. Chase away the fear.
And He does. Speaking through His Word. Gathering the frayed edges of a worry-worn heart. Bringing peace to the tumult and renewed faith to the fear. This relationship with Him creates a love-bond that holds me. He leads me beside still waters. I’m wrapped in the grace of His arms.
We tube along. Slow enough to witness the beauty around us. Fast enough to make a small boy smile. I can feel Isaiah’s body relax beside mine. And suddenly he’s laughing. His summer-blond hair pushes back. Worries carry on the breeze. The sun glints of the water, but it’s not as bright as my child’s joy.
We’ve found his quiet calm.
He’s safe in loving arms.
Father, thank you for holding me in your loving arms. Amen.
Shawnelle Eliasen and her husband Lonny have been married for twenty-five years. They have five sons and raise their bevy of boys in an old Victorian near the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River. Their sons, Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel, and Isaiah, range in age from twenty-one to six with Shawnelle home teaching the youngest three.
Shawnelle has been writing for six years, contributing regularly to Guideposts magazine, Daily Guideposts devotional and other inspirational publications. She would say that life with her men moves faithfully, on fast forward. But it’s her heart’s desire, her passionate prayer, to see God’s goodness and glory in the fullness of her days. She longs to see Him in the unexpected moments, unexpected places, changing the ordinary to extraordinary and bringing quiet, sustaining grace.