This past week, while my family and I were on vacation, we got the word that our community will be losing hundreds of jobs next summer with the closing of California Correctional Center. It was a strange thing to be playing in the sun, having the experience of a lifetime, knowing that so many people were dealing with such devastating news. If you are one of the people affected by this, please know that I have been praying for you and for our town.
While we were in Hawaii, we were busy with all sorts of adventures. We’re not a family that sits still very well, which is probably my fault. We rode ziplines through the jungle and hiked to waterfalls and snorkeled with sea turtles and swam with sharks (we were in a cage), we visited new places and ate new foods and came home sunburned and exhausted. It was a great trip, full of fun and quality time together.
On the evening of day we got the news about CCC, my oldest daughter Bailey wanted to go down to swim in the ocean near our condo, and no one else wanted to go, so I went with her. The walk was just a few hundred yards, but it’s a place we’ve never been, and on the way we passed all sorts of people we didn’t know. The water was fairly calm, but not completely calm, with waves a couple of feet high, and, as we learned living on the Oregon Coast for 15 years, the ocean is always the ocean. As I sat in the sand, watching her swim while the sun set, I realized that this simple little adventure was something she would never have done on her own. I would never let my 14-year-old daughter walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood to swim in the ocean unsupervised, and she wouldn’t feel safe doing it. But there she was, frolicking in the waves without a care in the world, because she wasn’t alone. Her father was watching over her, and that made all the difference.
Over the course of the week, my children did all sorts of things like that. My 7-year-old son stepped off a boat hundreds of yards offshore to swim in the ocean. Under other circumstances, he would never do that, and I wouldn’t want him to. But in this case, I had secured a float belt around his waist, and I was already in the water, encouraging him to join me; he knew that I was there to keep him safe. All three of the kids jumped from rocky cliffs (at varying heights) into a pool of water by a waterfall in the jungle. But first they wanted to watch me do it, and to know that I was right there with them. They rode ziplines hundreds of feet across, high above the jungle floor, zipping through the trees like flying squirrels. All they needed was a little reassurance from Mom and Dad before they stepped off the platform.
To be completely honest, though, we also had experiences of the opposite kind. Not everyone was willing to get into the shark cage, not so much because of the sharks but because the ocean was a bit rough that day, and things were a little too chaotic for them to feel safe. Once again, I was already in the water, assuring them that it was safe and worthwhile, that right under the surface was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but they were unconvinced, and missed out. The boat was too rocky, the waves were too unpredictable, and the presence of their father wasn’t enough assurance. At other times during the week, the wind and the waves kept some of us from snorkeling with sea turtles and bright beautiful fish. Everyone still had a great time, and knew that they were free to make their own choices. But as a father, I don’t want my kids to miss out on anything, and it’s hard when my presence, and my assurance that everything will be okay, isn’t enough for them.
Which brings us back to Susanville. It might sound like an unfair comparison to say that losing your job is like an invitation to a new adventure. But I can tell you that time and time again in my relationship with God, I find myself seeking comfort and security, and my efforts are continually thwarted by a God who wants to shake things up, who prefers adventure and growth to the same old thing. I want tomorrow to look like yesterday. I want to make plans and see them fulfilled. But the great big God of the Bible, my heavenly Father, in continually stretching out His hand and inviting me to follow Him into the unknown. It’s scary, and sometimes the waves are too high and I refuse the invitation. When that happens, I’m the one who misses out.
Right now, for many of us in Susanville, the future is unknown. The truth is that the future is always unknown, but right now we are especially aware of it. Life is uncertain, and that’s scary. But it’s especially scary if we believe we are on our own. The question is, are you a seven-year old floating alone in the vast ocean, or is your Father there with you in the water, ready to swim you back to the boat at a moment’s notice? And here is the next question: If He is with you, is that enough? Are His presence and His assurance that all will be well enough to give you peace and hope? Your Heavenly Father is watching over you. His hand is outstretched, inviting you into an adventure of faith and growth. Will you trust Him?
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.“You of little faith,”he said,“why did you doubt?” —Matthew 14:29-31