As a parent of five children, which range from ages sixteen to six months, I have had my share of going through a variety of milestones in life thus far. Some have been joyful tears while other times have been tears of sadness. In May, I was able to go to Florida and see the oldest of the five children Angelina go to her first prom. As a father of a daughter and my first, it was indeed an emotional experience. As I took a glance at my daughter all dressed up I was overwhelmed as a seamless amount of memories flashed before my eyes; it was if only yesterday I was looking into her eyes as a baby and now today I stare at her as a young woman. The words in Psalm 127: 3-4 remind me just how precious the gift of children are “3 Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s you.” The Holy Spirit really spoke to my heart and reaffirmed the importance of not only how I spend the precious time I have with my children but how I raise them up to the Lord during that time as well.

It was not until I went back to the hotel room later that night and went swimming with our four-year-old son that I began to deeply start thinking about the time I spend with him and the memories that we have been creating. As I watched him from inside of the pool he was just slightly on the outside of it, he was freely running and diving into the pool; I just had to laugh because I remember just not so long ago it was not like that. In fact I can remember with just about all my children the infamous swimming journey, but most recently his. As his dad, I understand the risk of just jumping into a pool so freely, so I made sure to assure him though this experience of jumping in may seem unfamiliar to him, I am here to protect him and keep him safe. Still, with much uncertainty, he was reluctant to believe me and even more suspicious when I told him that the joy he would have inside of the pool with me would supersede what he thought to be fun watching and playing from the outside. As much as I promised him he would enjoy it and showed him the safety I could provide him, he remained hesitant. There were times he would begin to run to me and turn away at the last second, he would even run and dip his toe in the water only to back out, there were even times he would sit and keep his feet in the water and as I came closer to him he would pull away, he just was not willing to go into this experience deep enough with me. It took time and patience for him to gain a real understanding that not only was their joy in swimming inside the pool but that there was safety that I would provide him if he would just trust me. I would be lying if I said it was not frustrating at times that I could not get him to see the fun in swimming with me or even felt hurt that he didn’t trust what I was telling him.

The Holy Spirit is always faithful in using events in my life to help teach me a lesson about myself. It was convicting to me when the Holy Spirit asked me as I was having those thoughts has my relationship and walk with Jesus not been the same at times. For me, it does not always feel good to take a self-inventory and deep reflection of myself when the Holy Spirit calls me out, but I knew I had to reflect truly on this question. I can remember when people would share the good news with me, and I was that person on the side of that pool so to speak thinking that what was being offered by the world was more joyful than a relationship with Jesus. Even when I thought Christ could be the answer and he was inviting me in I was not willing to trust his promises or jump into his arms despite His willingness to offer me comfort and safety. I could feel him closing in and inviting me into the family and yet I would still find myself running up to the edge only to pull short or just enough to maybe dip my toes in the water. How wonderful it is to know that God’s invitation to the family does not expire if you do not RSVP the first time.

I can remember finally at the age of thirty two becoming saved and dedicating my life to Christ after numerous seeds were planted and years of watering took place. Even then I wish I could say I was ready to fully dive in and let Jesus take me into the deep end of the pool but I was still unfortunately only willing to go knee deep. I was finally faced with a decision in life as I felt Christ asking me “are you willing to go jump into my arms and go deeper with me”. That was such a pivotal question in my relationship with him because fear of the unknown, lack of control, among other things was preventing me from going deeper in my relationship with Christ. It was only when I was finally willing to fall into his arms, allow him to catch me and take me more in-depth was I able to experience true joy in life. Even though each day brings about its challenges I still find joy when I am allowing Christ to carry me. Romans 12:12 serves me as a great reminder to “12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”. It is an important reminder that my hope and joy is based on Christ alone and not results of my life circumstances either good or bad. There have been times when I do not understand the will of God and the outcomes of life he brings forth and to be honest I, in the past would have questioned parts of my faith and my willingness to want to go deeper when that occurs if I did not have the hope in Christ that I have today. A little close to two years ago, my wife and I had to face the experience of losing a pregnancy. It was something that I think I suppressed, something I never thought about or wanted to realize the realness of the event. In the family I was brought up in I was taught to be firm in my emotions, crying was a weakness, and empathy was something I was never really taught to use. I say all this because my perspective and understanding of the grace and gifts of the Lord truly transformed my views in life. Only by His grace, we were given another child. In December, we welcomed our fifth child Joshua Gary, and a true blessing he truly is. As scripture reminds us in James 1:17 “17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” I continuously remind myself that I have achieved nothing on my own, but only because of the grace of God and the relationship I have with Jesus.

These life experiences help remind me as I continue to grow deeper in my relationship with Jesus and attempt to share the good news of the Gospel that everybody may be at a different stage of their life when it comes to tolerance of learning about Jesus however, that should not deter me from sharing Him with everyone. I have come to understand that each person in life goes through different life experiences, yet there are times when I just cannot understand why people are not receptive to what Jesus has done for them and can offer them but then I am reminded I too was once that person.

Titus 3:3-7 ESV
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

What a powerful realization that my fallen nature is not so far away if I am not continually remaining in my relationship with the Father. At the same time it provides so much hope in knowing that no one is too far from being rescued by our loving Father in Heaven. How wonderful and even more amazing is it to know that our God is willing to reach out to us where ever we are and does not wait for us to reach out to Him. I often think back and cannot grasp at the grace I have received, especially after the number of fails I have accumulated. Most often, I always go back to how I often think about the times I have been given a type of gift by someone in life and how thankful I am to receive such a thoughtful gift only to realize how much more of a gift God has given to me. The impact of knowing that the Lord my God has given me the gift of grace and salvation extended through his son Jesus is something at times I just cannot simply wrap my mind around.

So I ask, how deep are you willing to go with Jesus?

– Frank D.