Drowning, Park Slides and Evangelism
I almost drowned when I was ten. Nags Head, North Carolina…1998…family vacation. I won’t go into the boring details of how I got caught in a rip current, but suffice to say, I was terrified. Thankfully, onlookers noticed, and someone notified my Dad who was in the beach house we were renting for the week. One minute I was facing the huge waves and rough waters alone; the next thing I see is my Dad running to my rescue, flinging himself headlong into the waters to rescue me. The waves no longer seemed terrifying, because Dad was there with me. It almost ended tragically, but paramedics were able to pump water out of Dad’s lungs, which were so full of water that he still had to be taken to the hospital to prevent secondary drowning. But throughout the experience, despite wave after wave, I wasn’t worried. Dad was there.
My son no longer wanted to slide down the “little” slide at the park, he wanted to climb to the “big” one by himself. When he got to the top he froze…until I stepped up and grabbed his hand. He suddenly wasn’t scared anymore and slid down the slide, smiling and giggling the whole time, clinging to my hand.
These situations range in danger and “scary-ness”, from a ten-year-old facing near death, to a seventeen-month-old needing courage to slide down a park slide, but they both remind me of something: The Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
This is a monumental task. As disciples of Christ, our charge is to 1) take the gospel to the nations, 2) baptize them, and 3) disciple and teach them. “The nations” means everyone. In the whole world.
Does this seem extreme and impossible? To me it does. Oftentimes I back down or make an excuse not to talk to a neighbor or co-worker, part of that everyone I mentioned. The gospel suddenly becomes small and my fears of rejection become big…like a rough ocean, or a long, dangerous slide. The person in front of me isn’t a person but a mini-god, and the God who commissioned me becomes obsolete. Or, even worse, I tell myself “He will understand because He is loving” and therefore “I will do better next time” becomes “I will never do this because it’s scary.” I will never step into the ocean again. I will never slide down the slide. They are too hard. Or I give in to the hyper-calvinistic temptation to assume that because God is sovereign and elects us for salvation before we were even born, He doesn’t need me. If he wants to save them, they will be saved; if He wants to send someone to brave the dangerous waters and tell them the message that will safely bring them to shore, He will, and it does not have to be me.
I forget that last part of the commission. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” How I gloss over this and forget it! This shouldn’t just change my perspective about preaching the gospel, it should change my perspective about life in general. The one who conquered death is telling me, and you, that He is with us. He is my Dad who plunged into the ocean with no thought to his own safety to be with me in my crisis. He is me, the calming mother, who steps up and grasps the hand of her terrified toddler. What happened in those two instances? Fear was replaced with peace and courage because Dad and Mom were there. The ocean was still rough and scary, and the slide was still long and big, but the task was easier because we weren’t alone. And that promise is true for today AND tomorrow. For the circumstances now and the circumstances to come.
The next time you are faced with speaking the gospel, or facing a tough situation, or seeing the good in your circumstances, remember the promise of the Risen Christ. He is with you always, and he always will be. He will brave the rough waters with you. He will hold your hand as you step out in faith. The Alpha and Omega will always complete what he starts, will never leave you or forsake you, and has given you the tools you need to complete the work he commissions you to do. Never once have we ever walked alone. And we never will.