In Too Deep

By on November 8, 2017

by Zack Williamson

The radiant spring morning beautifully illuminated the world, yet my three-year-old daughter stood unusually still. It was a delightful day to say the least, and my wife Alethea and I had walked out on our back porch to savor the sun. We lived in a pleasant neighborhood (contrary to the opinion of many), and for a young family braving the world, we had no fear—life was good.

My daughter, Olathe, squirmed restlessly in my arms, as she often did, wriggling for her independence. She was apparently having a hard time saying, “No, thank you,” to the earth’s invitation to a backyard exploration. So I lovingly let her down. She waddled down the wooden steps, across the slab of cement, and ran into our backyard. So much joy, so much life—I can still feel her contagious exhilaration as if it were our own.

Then, something changed. With her back facing us, she stopped abruptly. With an unsure twinge of horror, she slowly turned her head and looked at us unleashing a panicked cry. Instinctively, Alethea and I ran to her and scooped her up. Her little spring-loaded arms tightened around my neck as if something we couldn’t see desired to swallow her whole. I was able to maneuver her around just enough to check her feet for cuts, thorns, snake bites—anything that could have induced such terror. Nada.

Buckets of tears melted my heart. Daddy’s are protectors, so had I known there was something lurking out there, waiting to inflict fear upon my little princess, I would have warned her, stopped her, or enticed her to stay inside with some Cheerios. But the world is a beautiful place. And although there are things in it that may make her cry, should I keep her from the great adventures that beckon her curious soul?

I’ve been wrestling of late with the fine line between fear and love and how these two emotions influence our decisions. My decisions. You see, fear is a powerful emotion. It can keep us bound to the ground when we, or the ones we love, long to fly. It deceives us into thinking we are safe. Secure. In control. But in reality, fear is just a scared dictator fighting for self-preservation at all costs—chaining us to the porch with links of Cheerios.

Opposite of fear stands love. Fear rages against freedom under the guise of safety, whereas love safely wraps freedom in a comfortable, warm quilt. When we trust in love (whether human or divine), we are free to face our fears, experience life, even make mistakes. Why? Because even in our failings we know love will never fail. It will always find a way to scoop us up when our exhilaration or curiosity takes us in too deep.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” —1 John 4:16,18 (ESV)

“It was the grass. She doesn’t like the feeling of grass on her feet.”

I looked at my wife as this revelation graciously fell from her lips as drops of rain on the dry ground of my perplexity. After a brief pause, we burst into compassionate laughter and held our daughter close.

We will all experience itchy ankles—times we get ahead of ourselves and realize we aren’t quite comfortable where we find ourselves. In those moments, let’s remember it is love that gave us the courage and freedom to explore an unsafe world. And that no matter how far we run in life, what fears we will face, when the world makes us cry, we (she) can be secure knowing that we will always… always… have a loving Father who through the wonder, fear, joy, and pain in life, is present and delights in us. Love never fails.

Zack Williamson has a passion to creatively communicate Biblical truths in simple and thought-provoking ways. With twenty plus years in ministry, Zack thrives on being a catalyst for others—helping individuals discover their God-given purpose and potential in publishing and life. He currently serves as pastor of Praise Chapel Chicago and as audience development manager at Moody Publishers. Zack enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and writing—yet occasionally still ponders about what really happened on LOST. Connect with him on Instagram and Twitter
Editor’s note: This piece first appeared here: https://zackwilliamson.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/in-too-deep/  Zack told us, “Although the story tells of my oldest daughter when she was young, she is now 20 and I wrote it when I was wrestling through some choices she was making fresh into college.” It is a reminder we all need, no matter how young – or old – our children are. Thanks, Zack. 
Photo by Chang Qing on Unsplash

4 Comments

Gretchen

November 9, 2017 @ 13:52

Reply

There are so many things that cause us as parents to fear. The enemy of our souls would love to keep us busy and focused on our fears, rather than turning our focus to our Lord and trusting in Him.

I especially liked how you said this: “Fear rages against freedom under the guise of safety, whereas love safely wraps freedom in a comfortable, warm quilt. When we trust in love (whether human or divine), we are free to face our fears, experience life, even make mistakes. ”

It is amazing how when we face our fears, they become smaller.

Thanks for the reminder to trust in love.

Zack

November 10, 2017 @ 00:34

Reply

Thank you for your kind words, Gretchen.

Debby

November 13, 2017 @ 12:49

Reply

I was raised by a father who, in my teenaged years, o made a lot of his parental decisions based on fear. It wasn’t good. As a kid, I didn’t understand his fear and mistook it for his mistrust of me. I only understood it when I became a parent but I fought not to make decisions based on fear. As you said, it’s the opposite of love. I appreciate your reflections and truths about God’s love.

Zack

November 13, 2017 @ 18:47

Reply

Thanks, Debbie. I agree — it’s that balance of protecting your children from legitimate dangers versus allowing them to experience the freedom to make their own decisions that well-meaning parents have to strive for as their children get older. No easy answers and, unfortunately, we will make mistakes in either direction. The key is that when a child feels and knows they are loved, they will be much more adaptable and resilient when we, as parents, fall short. Thank God for His grace.

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