She’s seven years old, eight at the most. Fluffy clouds of freckles cover her pale nose and sun-kissed cheeks, peering out from underneath globs of stark white sunscreen. Her thin legs scurry across the sand trying in vain to keep up with her older brother, now diving to catch a football thrown by his dad. The ball lands in the sand as the 10-year-old crashes behind it in a commotion of sand and wind. His father, a handsome and athletic 40-something dressed in a gray t-shirt and swim shorts, echoes without hesitation, “Close! Nice try, son.”
There I sat, a mere 50 yards away underneath a straw cabana, pretending to read as I eavesdropped on this touching family moment from behind my oversized, Jackie Onassis sunglasses. Try as I might, I couldn’t peel my eyes away. The football went back and forth, back and forth. While the men played, the little girl scampered around like a baby deer, simply happy. The dad seemed genuinely engaged, actually thrilled to be playing catch with his son. But it’s what happened next that really caught my attention – and my heart.
As their mom watched from the comfort of her beach chair, the kids ran toward the water. In a last-ditch effort to protect her porcelain skin, the dad made his daughter run back to grab her baseball cap. She dutifully complied, throwing the red cap over a ponytail of blonde curls. Then the three of them ran into the crisp, blue ocean. The boy jumped in full throttle, unafraid and completely enthralled. The girl, however, was timid. She took her time. With every step further into the great expanse of water, she hesitated a little longer. The wind was strong, stacking ferocious waves that easily stretched higher than that faded red baseball cap.
Her dad looked back and noticed her. He reached his hand out. She grabbed it. And for the next 15 minutes, she bravely hopped every single wave that came her way. Sometimes she cleared them, and sometimes she got buried underneath the rolling billows of salt water and foam. Every time, though, she came up holding her daddy’s hand and smiling.
Right there on the beaches of Cancun, Mexico, I watched intently as a picture of trust was painted in brilliant color before my eyes. Pure, beautiful trust. Once that little girl locked hands with her father, the world didn’t stand a chance. She could do anything. And she did.
I took a deep breath and another sip of my strawberry daiquiri. Then, somehow, I squeezed my big, size-10 feet into that little girl’s shoes. I allowed myself to feel that trust, to let it envelope me just as sure as the sun’s rays wrapped me up that afternoon. And it felt good.
Life can be tough sometimes. We’re at odds with friends or family members. Finances are tight and we’re behind on our bills. We’re unemployed or feel unsatisfied in our current jobs. Our marriages are failing, or true love hasn’t yet arrived and we’re feeling lonely. We long for children, or long for better for the children in our care. We face serious health issues and wonder if we’ll ever be well again. We struggle to find the faith that once guided our way.
Yet we’ve got a dad who’s right there. He sees us eyeing these waves, these obstacles. He sees the fear and helplessness in our eyes as we try in vain to hide underneath our red baseball caps. And he understands. His hand, filled with omnipotent power and love, is held out toward us, begging us to reach out in return.
Will you take hold of it today?
My vacation is officially over and I’m settling back into my regular work routine here in Washington, D.C. But the picture of that precious little girl and her dad in the ocean is forever ingrained in my memory. I’m facing some tough trials right now, some hard decisions. Sometimes it seems like they’re beating over me like endless waves, one right after the other. So I’m choosing to reach out. I’m choosing to lean on the everlasting arms, to rest in his forever embrace, knowing full well that with him I can make it through anything.