“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”
2 Peter 3:17
In my country, July 4th is a national holiday known as Independence Day. It’s a day that is celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach days, boating and of course fireworks. Everywhere you look American flags and red, white and blue decorations adorn homes, streets, businesses and even people. It’s a day the US celebrates becoming its own country, independent of another country’s governing.
In my family, we have a traditional Independence Day celebration. It’s a small gathering of cousins and their children. We attend a parade, enjoy a cook-out, relax at the beach and end the day reveling at the firework show. There is an annual festival going on with many events and we tend to find ourselves exploring vendors and enjoying the whatever entertainment is performing in the park. There are always a few stressful moments but overall it’s a very enjoyable day.
This year, after the cook-out, I took my daughter and three nieces to the beach. The lake is very shallow and my younger nieces went out quite a distance before the water was even near their bellies. Being a “nervous Nelly” when it comes to water safety, I would call out to my nieces and motion for them to come back in. This of course was no fun to them because they would inevitably end up swimming in very shallow water. After seeing one of my nieces express some frustration, I explained that I was only trying to keep them safe. As far out as they had previously gone, if they ended up in danger, it would have taken me too long to get to them from the shore. After a brief storm interrupted our beach time, we found a happy medium for distance in the water that we could all live with.
As evening approached and only a few short hours until fireworks time, the rest of my family arrived. This crew included my nephews who are seven, five and three. Because the temps were cooling off, the sun was setting and fireworks would start at dusk, my nephews were not permitted to go swimming. In fact, when everyone else arrived, my nieces changed into dry clothes as all swimming had come to an end for the day. That was, until my three-year-old nephew decided to walk right into the lake.
Keep in mind, this is a very shallow lake. Thankfully that meant no drop offs anywhere around him that put him in immediate danger. His mother, seeing what her son was doing, called out his name and told him to stop. He did not listen. She called again and he continued walking into the water. Another adult family member headed to the water to get him. My nephew turned around wearing a giant grin on his face and continued to walk backward farther into the water as my cousin slowly walked toward him. My nephew’s mother continued to tell him to stop but alas, he did not listen. Reading his face, it looked as though he thought his uncle was playing a game with him and he was determined to not get caught.
Just before he went under the water, my cousin grabbed a hold of my nephew and carried him to shore. He was greeted by his momma who was wearing a very serious, concerned and unhappy look on her face. As he looked as his momma, that big smile turned to a frown. He lowered his head and in a soft, sweet toddler voice he said, “Sorry momma.” As I am one who tends to find these moments funny when it’s not my own child disobeying, I jumped up and took a photo of the very moment he became apologetic. All in all, his clothes were soaked but he was kept safe from going under water.
As this scenario played out, and especially as I watched my nephew’s facial expressions turn from joy, mischievousness and then to remorse and regret, I thought about God’s parenting and our own sinful natures. If we are honest with ourselves, we can be certain to recall a time or many where we looked God in the eye, heeded His warnings, possibly flashed a cheeky grin and walked directly into a dangerous and sinful situation. It doesn’t have to be something as drastic as three-year-old ignoring his mother’s warnings and walking into a lake where he could’ve drown. It could be something as easy as overeating, overspending, having sex before marriage, telling a lie or a handful of lies, etc. It could be something more destructive like being married, forming a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, heeding God’s warnings about getting too close and crossing lines into an emotional and/or physical affair.
There are times we face sinful choices and like the situation with my nephew, God steps in just before we’re about to go under water. There are other times though, God chooses not to intercede but instead waits to piece us back together as you or I self destruct. With that self-destruction comes collateral damage to ourselves and others that isn’t always fixed. Relationships can be destroyed and God’s redeeming love doesn’t always restore them. Some decisions we make can be life changers or life enders. That’s why God calls out to us yelling, “STOP!” It’s our fault we get into deep water when we choose to ignore God’s warnings.
No matter what type of sin it is, ignoring God’s warning signs will always lead to negative consequences. When walking through those consequences, that cheeky grin we once displayed turns upside down as we are burdened with remorse and regret. Thankfully, God’s mercy and grace mean we do not have to live in an eternal state of regret. Yes we will make mistakes. Some may even forever change us. But we don’t have to let our mistakes define or govern us. We can have our own “independence day” celebrating the freedom God’s love and forgiveness brings-freedom from guilt and shame.
God’s redeeming love covers all of our mistakes. He is our foghorn when we face temptation. He is our lifeboat when find ourselves in deep waters. He is our guiding light when were shipwrecked and lost. He forgives us as soon as we say, “Sorry Abba” just as my nephew’s mother forgave him immediately when he sought forgiveness too. If you’re in deep waters today, God can still save you. All you have to do is cry out for help and trust Him. If you’re struggling with a regretful past, swim away from the under toe of shame and know that you are forgiven. If you’re facing a temptation today, listen to God yelling, “STOP!”, heed His warning and walk out of the deep water you’re about to enter. Walking in obedience may feel like swimming in shallow water but there’s no chance of drowning when you’re right where God can save you.
No matter how enticing the enemy is making temptation look, it will not bring you the joy and satisfaction you’re longing for. Obedience to God’s word is the only joy that will truly satisfy you. Walking in obedience may not always feel fun or joyful but living with a lifetime of regret from sinful choices is far less enjoyable that doing life God’s way. I’m writing from experience on this one for sure!