Filed under: leadership, parenting, relationships | Tags: christian parenting, david herndon, fear, gulf of mexico, kayak, paddle board, parenting, sand dollars, snorkeling
Two weeks ago my family was vacationing on The Gulf of Mexico. There was a sandbar about 400 yards into the ocean, so as we looked out from the beach the water gradually became darker and then lighter again. One of my favorite activities each day was to take my 10 year old son, a kayak, and a paddle board from the beach to the sandbar and then along the edge of the sandbar back and forth. Since the water was so clear we could see EVERYTHING that swam and lived underneath– schools of mullet and redfish, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Sting rays, Blue crabs, and Sharks.
It was beautiful, and even more so because I was sharing this experience with my son.
It was so rewarding to introduce him to the adventure of paddling and to expose him to the beauty of creation – two things that I did not discover for myself until later in my life. I could also see his self-confidence grow before my eyes as he paddled miles through the week on his own among sharks and sting rays and mackerels.
He’s not a little boy anymore.
One of our last days we drifted over the sandbar and my son exclaimed, “Dad! Look at that sand dollar! It’s as big as a pancake!” I looked down and there were hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars – some as small as a poker chip and some, yes, as large as a pancake. My son said, “Let’s dive down to them.”
Now if you know anything about me you will know that I have an irrational fear of deep water. I prefer to go no deeper than my knees, my waist at most. I like boats, kayaks, and paddleboards for the pure fact that they provide a barrier between me and things that can eat me. I’m more likely to get struck by lightning than be bitten by a shark, but I still panic when my head can’t stay above water without my feet on the ground. On our honeymoon my wife took me snorkeling in, literally, the most beautiful spot in the world. It was the first and only panic attack I’ve ever had in my life. Like I said – my fear is irrational.
And now here was my son asking me to dive down 15 feet in the open water – mere yards from where we saw a shark as big as me the day before. No air tanks. No spears. No cage. Just open water, the two of us, and hungry, hungry sharks lurking in the deep. I was torn.
On one hand was my personal fear. It has proved limiting to life in my past, but it was something I had grown accustomed to and found ways to manage. It is not my favorite quality for myself, but I have come to accept it and I never try to change it. It doesn’t make me a bad person or even a bad parent. In some situations it could probably be a praiseworthy attribute of safety and self-preservation.
On the other hand, I was so proud of my son who in the past several days had become a young man right in front of my eyes. His sense of adventure and self-confidence had grown exponentially in such a short time. Did I really want to limit that?
I thought about telling him to go for it alone and I’d keep an eye out for sharks. In the end that didn’t seem honorable. So yes – I jumped in. I dove down. I swam along the bottom of the sandbar with my son. I may have peed my pants a little.
Most importantly… I survived. I even kind of enjoyed it.
It’s been almost a month since that trip and my son still talks about that day. He tells random strangers that he swam with sharks and saw sand dollars as big as his head. He is even requesting scuba lessons for his next birthday. Not only that, I see that same self-confidence at work now that he has started a new school year with new peers and a new teacher. It’s almost like he can handle anything because he did that.
I know that for most people diving on a sandbar is probably not that big of a deal – kid stuff. But that one simple dive made a bigger impact on my son than I could ever imagine.
I can’t help but think: What if I said no to him that day?
As parents, we all want good things for our children. We want them to do their best, to be successful, to make wise decisions, be kind, keep the right friends, follow Christ, give back to the community, be involved in church, and the list goes on. But are we willing to go first? How can we desire things for our children that we are not willing to pursue for ourselves? We shouldn’t let our own fears and comfort zones limit our children’s lives.
So, parents, I issue the challenge to you: get out of the boat, dive into the deep stuff. You will have to sacrifice. It will cost you time and money. It will be difficult. I may even be uncomfortable. But your children will follow… and one day they will go deeper than you could ever imagine.
Here are 3 things I think every parent should be involved in for the sake of their children:
2. A Small Group/Bible Study
3. Community Service/Missions
So get out of the boat, Mom and Dad. The water is beautiful.