On Wednesdays, I’ve been telling another portion of my story,
which is really His story, of how He has authored my faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
Today’s story takes place when I’m 26 years old . . .
Frantic and in near panic, I kick and flail until my face breaks the water’s surface. I gasp for air, swallowing hard. My four-year-old daughter can barely swim, so I struggle to get her on my back so she won’t drown.
A distant light on the shore is our only hope.
I begin to swim with one arm while balancing my little girl above the water with my other arm. We’re moving so slowly, it hardly feels like we’re making any progress at all.
Somehow I find a steady rhythm, and I know we’re no longer in immediate danger. We’re both breathing. And that’s something.
But another fear pushes into my mind. The water bites our skin with an unrelenting frost. Even if I’m able to get to shore, hypothermia might set in. No matter how fast I swim, it might not be fast enough.
Fear digs its talons into my heart. Oh, God, please help us reach the shore.
In a cold sweat, I sit straight up in bed. Panting. The sheets look as though I’ve been thrashing about for hours.
It’s the same nightmare. Every night.
I’m afraid to lie back on my pillow, for any notion of sleep threatens the return of dark waters. Instead, I slink out of bed and slip onto the floor.
My knees are the only way to keep breathing.
God, I’m so afraid. I keep reading statistics about the risks children face while growing up in a single-parent home. Please, God, spare my little girl. Don’t let her fall prey to the enemy’s schemes against children without a father. Don’t let her become a statistic.
My daughter’s father has moved out of state. She hasn’t seen her dad in months. It’s just the two of us now. And we don’t have any extended family around to help.
I remember going to the circus once, where I saw the acrobats fling themselves through the air. Another acrobat was always there, on another swing, ready to catch her at just the right moment. I was never worried at the circus, though, because a giant net assured their safety if they fell.
But right now, I’m worried.
I’m worried about my daughter.
I’m worried about the rent.
And I’m worried about getting a better job.
I know I’m not supposed to worry. But I’m living without a net. If I fall, there isn’t anyone around to catch me. And my daughter is depending on me.
My late-night talks with God are becoming more and more regular. I’m 26. And I’m tired. Worn beyond my years.
God, are you listening at all?
Something below me shifts. The floor moves. And I open my eyes to see the pictures on the wall swaying back and forth. The whole room starts shaking, and I wonder if I’m dreaming again. Then I realize what’s happening.
I run to my daughter’s bedroom and grab her out of bed. Together, we huddle in the doorway.
“Mommy! What’s happening?”
“It’s an earthquake, Honey. Don’t worry. It will pass in a minute.”
“No, Mommy, that’s not an earthquake. When Mrs. Tanner rings a bell at school and we all get under the table, that’s an earthquake.”
I can’t help but smile at her innocence.
My nightmares are normal. And I know earthquakes in Southern California are supposed to be normal too. But this is the first one we’ve experienced.
Nothing makes a person feel so helpless as when the whole world shakes and you know there isn’t anything you can do about it.
The tremors subside, and I wish I could turn on the news to see how close we are to the epicenter. But I had to cancel my cable service a few months ago. So I lean against the doorframe in the middle of the night — holding my little girl, rocking her back to sleep, and praying for safe harbor.
Why are we here, God? And why are we alone?
I’ve known people who were healed of cancer.
I’ve also known people, like my cousin, who weren’t healed. At least not in this life.
I’ve known people who walked away from car accidents.
I’ve also known people, like my brother, who never walked again.
And what’s the difference between these outcomes? Why are some healed? And some not?
I’ve known people who testified to the miraculous healing God performed in their marriage. I also know, firsthand, that some people pray for miracles that never come. At least not in this life.
Why did I have to fall into the latter category? Why does my daughter have to suffer the consequences of her parents’ brokenness?
God help us.
I feel like Peter. So eager to serve. Yet, constantly falling short. The moment I take my eyes off the Lord, I start to sink in stormy waters. And while I’d like to point all fingers away from me — to lay the fault entirely at someone else’s feet — I know that I am as much to blame as anyone.
Brokenness befalls us all.
Sometimes I wish I could be more like Paul. At least Paul can claim he didn’t know any better. When he was persecuting Christians, killing them even, he hadn’t met Christ yet. Later, Paul had an extreme makeover: spiritual edition. On the road to Damascus.
But when Peter denied Christ, he knew better. And the sting of his failure reverberated through every part of his soul.
He knew better.
Peter knew what life was like without a net. Because he had left that net full of fish — a winning lottery ticket if ever there was one — to follow Jesus.
Then he failed.
And after his failure, Peter found himself fishing again, clinging to an old familiar net. On the Sea of Galilee.
When Someone on the shore suggested the fishermen try the other side, the catch was so huge that Peter knew it could only be the Lord. So Peter jumped into the water.
Jesus had built a charcoal fire and was preparing to give Peter a second chance. But while thrashing wildly through the dark waves, Peter only knew one thing at that moment . . . the Light on the shore was his only hope.
I tuck my daughter back in bed, wondering how long the aftershocks will continue, but knowing that because of the Cross and His death and the earthquake that tore the veil that separated us from His Presence . . . because of His resurrection . . . the Light on the shore is our only hope too.
Click here to read PART 8
To read more of His stories, please visit Jennifer’s place.