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Hearing My Father’s Voice

This piece was originally posted in August, 2015; but will kick off Chris’ new series on this theme.

It was peace. Not the peace you feel with the absence of stress or a peace that comes when the noise and chaos of life are silenced for a brief moment. No, it was altogether different. This was the kind of peace for which, in the moment (actually in all moments), my soul was longing.

It was a peace that answered some internal question that was silently nagging at the deeper part of my soul – a question that begged to know that life wasn’t arbitrary and fleeting. It came in one of those moments where I needed resolution for the voice that asks each one of us, “Is this it? Is this the end?”

It was a supernatural peace that only comes when you have been rescued.

I was too young to know the significance of the moment, but it’s an experience that clings to my own story like a child to a favorite stuffed animal or blankie. I feared this was the end and, in an instant, I felt desperate to know that my life wasn’t a waste. My thinking wasn’t deep or theologically sophisticated; it was a simple longing of my soul. “This can’t be the end.”

In the desperation to save myself I clawed at a pier post trying to lift myself up for one more breath as the sea lapped with hungry anticipation at my back and the sand under my feet aggressively washed away.

I began to imagine my own death. Morbid, I know – but it happens to us all. And I cried. Hard. Tears of despair. My arms were so tired. I knew the moment had come and I began to relax my body.

And then it happened.

I heard my father’s voice.

It started with a warning: “Chris, stay away from the pier.”

My dad was a single parent raising two boys, and our beach trip was the respite in the middle of summer break that we all longed for. My dad would probably admit that he mostly loved the beach because there the ocean waves provided the supervision. So we put down our video games and toys and off we went play!

Each day at mid-morning, Dad would set up a large umbrella with enough chairs, snacks, and toys to entertain us all for hours. He would read. We would play. Life was full.

Just one warning: “Chris, stay away from the pier.”

Something strange happens to the suspension posts of fishing piers over time. The nicely finished, weather-treated posts that extend some 6 feet into the ground and carry the weight of walking planks, novice fishermen, and spectators begin to attract a particularly nasty parasite. Barnacles. There are nearly 900 species of the crustacea worldwide and the North Carolina coastline is liberally adorned with the often unnoticed animal. Although the majority are what scientists call “free-living,” many take up residence on the bellies of large fish and burrow into the sand near intertidal grasses. Ironically, a barnacle has a soft body cavity that is protected by a calcite shell to protect it from fleshy attackers. Because these sea dwellers need exposure to both the sun and sea, they frequently attach to the non-threatening, sun exposed pier posts where the changing tide gives life.

The allure of the pier was just too much for me to resist. If I recall correctly, someone had hooked a shark the day I violated the only rule. Although I knew myself to be a strong swimmer, I didn’t understand the uniquely powerful and widely unpredictable nature of the ocean currents near a pier. The post’s placement in the water interrupts the relatively predictable ebb and flow of the water’s rhythm against the shore. All the water wraps itself emphatically around the post – and anyone it can carry with it.

As soon as I got near, the waters slammed my small body against the post and the sun-bathing barnacles ripped into my chest like a thousand little razor blades, slow-bleeding the life out of me. With every shift of my weight, the tiny sea creatures reminded me I was unwelcome here. I knew this was the end.

Then it happened. I heard my father’s voice.

Simple words changed my direction: “I’ve got you.”

My dad had never taken his eye off his son, and although I thought I was struggling alone in the deepening waters, the truth was that my dad was always on his way. He knew it was likely I would ignore his warning; after all I never really understood the danger.

It feels as real today as it did then. As my father reached his arms down and lifted me up from my certain death, my whole body was filled with peace. A supernatural peace. The uncertainly of my own future was washed away by a loving embrace that laid me down on the shoreline and let me rest.

In many ways I believe this illustrates the way we all think about discerning our calling. We feel like we are sinking, but our Father never really left. His intention was always to get us to the shore where safety and security are found. Believers in Jesus too often forget that God is way more invested in our future than we could ever be. He created us for purpose and will never be content leaving us where we are currently positioned.

The harder part is discerning God’s voice and trusting that He’s “got you.” In coming posts we will explore this together.

Chris Lawson

Founder of MyBigJesus.com, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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