Go out further, Daddy! A few of us from church got together the night before last at a lake lot. It was a nice evening, we swam, ate, some went out in the boat and flew around the lake, a few brave souls tried some water skiing and tubing (like skiing except you lay on a big inner tube flying around the lake an four hundred miles an hour), and we ate some more. What really made the evening special for me was what I learned from one little boy. It was one of those lessons that just leave me humbled inside, it was one of those lessons that stand out and leave me near or in tears at its simplicity and perfection. What made it really profound was the teacher of that lesson.  Eli is a tiny, frail little boy who has had health issues since he was born although they don’t seem to slow him down. His hair is so blonde it’s almost white and he has one of those little faces that’s almost angelic. He reminds me a lot of another little boy that I went to school with, his name was Alfred. Alfred was special too. I’ll never forget one day the teacher asked all of us if we could have one gift from God, what would we ask for. Most of the kids asked for the usual things, a new bike, to be the best baseball player in the world, etc. etc. Just things you’d expect kids in 3rd grade to ask for. Then the question made it around to Alfred who also had hair so blonde it looked white and the same kind of face. Alfred just quietly said “wisdom.” Most if the kids snickered, some just got puzzled looks on their faces, a few just outright laughed at him, which was a mistake because it rightly incurred the teacher’s wrath. I must confess that I was with the puzzled group but I did at least understand the wisdom in asking for wisdom. Sometimes I think God puts people like him here to make up for the rest of us that just don’t quite get it. Anyway, it was almost sunset, a lot of our group was out of the water but a few of us were still sloshing around. I try not to slosh too much because one of two things usually happens, either groups of people show up in boats clapping their hands and taking pictures or people show up in bigger boats and shoot harpoons at me; either way its not pleasant but I was there soaking anyway. Eli’s dad was a little farther out than I was Eli was paddling around with his sporty blue life preserver having fun. Then he saw his dad out in deep water, and that’s when he started to teach me. A lot of small children would cal to their dads and ask them to come to them; Eli did just the opposite. He shouted “go out further, daddy, so I can swim to you!” It took a few seconds for it to soak in then I saw the significance.  From that point on Eli’s complete attention was focused on one thing, Dad. He paddled as fast as he could, his face was drawn up tight with concentration and his arms and legs were going full speed. Now it was only about fifteen or twenty feet but for a frail little body in water way over his head it was serious business. Pastors spend hours and hours pouring over sermons, fine tuning them, they wear expensive suits, they have fancy hair and big words are devised to make their point. Fortunes are spent in public speaking classes; authors write volumes and volumes trying to make their point and this tiny little boy puts all of us to shame. What some of the greatest minds in Christianity spend lifetimes to explain, he got right in that one sentence and one little action. In that few seconds he defined what Christianity SHOULD be about. What Eli taught was so deep that several lessons can be extracted from it, far more than I can cover in this article. Jesus tried to teach the same lesson to Peter when He told him to step out of the boat and walk to him but Peter blew it, the same as I have more times than I can count. Eli didn’t ask dad to come and get him, no, he set off full speed to go to dad because he wanted to be with his dad and he wanted his dad to see him and be proud of him. There have been SO many dark times in my life that I didn’t want God to see me, let alone watch what I was doing. There still are those times although now my goal is to be like David… a man after God’s own heart. I want God to look at me and say with pride “that’s my boy!” with a big smile on His face.  I wonder how many times He says instead “that’s mine, not much is he?” But He is the best of teachers and He is patient so I have hope. Eli didn’t look back, he didn’t look to either side, his eyes were only on his dad’s face. Our attention should also be only on God’s face. ‘Yeah right’ someone is thinking as they read this, ‘the kid doesn’t have a house payment to make. He doesn’t have deadlines and he doesn’t have any responsibilities.’ No, he doesn’t have house payments or deadlines, but if you really think he doesn’t have any responsibilities you’re dead wrong. His biggest, indeed his only responsibility is to please his dad, and that’s all he should have. We call ourselves ‘mature’ and ‘adults’ yet we can’t seem to concentrate on our real goals for more than a few minutes on Sunday mornings. By the time the key is in the ignition after church our minds have wandered IF we managed to keep focused for that long. Peter lost focus and started to sink, I’ve lost focus and sank to the bottom, it’s a good thing God has long arms. Eli had his nice blue life preserver on (funny how old folks know them as life preservers and young folks know them as ‘personal flotation devices’) but even if he had started to sink, Dad would have been there in a heartbeat. But dad had the presence of mind to stay put and let Eli come to him. What’s so special about that? A lot. By staying put he not only built up Eli’s confidence, but he also built up the muscles in those tiny legs. A very simple but very important lesson to learn that took me a very long time to learn is this: Sometimes God let’s us walk (or swim) on our own to strengthen our spiritual legs. That way we grow and don’t have to have our hands held every second. I really don’t think much of that old song about footprints in the sand; it’s a warm and fuzzy song that people think is profound. I think it’s erroneous. I don’t think God wants to have to carry us every time things get rough, I think He wants us to walk on our own, walking quietly behind us, ready to catch us when we stumble, which we will. I am absolutEli sure that He wants us to be more like Eli, to focus only on Him, then set out full speed ahead letting nothing get in our way. I SO hope that when I reach His arms He is proud of me and says “good job, son!” instead of “do you know how many angels I had to assign to you to keep you on track?” If you’re a new Christian or are wondering what I’ve been ranting about, read a little farther so I can explain it. God wants all of us to be with Him, but He leaves us with the choice. Eli could have done two things, he could have chosen to run to his dad, or he could have turned around, went back to the shore and played with the toys scattered around. Which choice do you think would have given him the most pleasure for the longest period of time? We can focus on God and head straight for Him or we can be distracted by ‘toys.’ I’m reminded of that stupid saying that floats around on bumper stickers ‘whoever dies with the most toys wins’ uh, no, they just end up dead, the toys get scooped up by whoever is still alive. If you have any notions that there is a God I have to ask you to think seriously about where do you want to spend forever; with a loving Father that wants to have fun and be together forever or would you rather just be dead? If you’re asking ‘if He wants us to be with Him then why doesn’t he give us some proof He’s there?’ To understand that we have to put ourselves in Eli’s dad’s perspective. I firmly believe that to really understand God a person needs to be a parent but a lot of people disagree with me on that. I think this question can be answered by non parents. Which would you prefer: to have your kids visit you because they have to? Or because they want to? If you said because they have to, I suggest that you never have children, if you said because they want to, you got it. God is much the same, He wants us to be with Him because we want to and that requires faith. What if we had undisputable proof of His existence? well, first, we wouldn’t have any choice because we had proof and that would mean that we accepted Him because we had to. There is also a nasty little side effect of proof, and that is that there is never enough. If you don’t believe and need proof and were given some then what? You would be forced to believe, but when people who have to have proof are given some, it eventually wears off and they need more and more and more. Until some day no matter how much they get it isn’t enough. Their minds start to rationalize what proof they had and they find some ‘logical’ explanation’ and therefore need more proof which they also find some ‘logical explanation’ for. The bottom line is this, people who need proof will always need it and never have enough. People who accept on faith will never need proof. proof is self consuming, faith is given to us by simply asking.
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