This season is unprecedented in so many ways. The life we have known has been turned upside down to some extent. We’ve been isolated from friends and family; we do not know what the future will hold for our children and their education; and fear for many is tangible. The stress and anxiety can take its toll.

I was feeling the need to get to my “happy place” to get some Vitamin D and some rest. So, I headed to the eastern shore of Delaware and it seems as though God drew me there to show me a thing or two. On this particular day, I was sitting by the seashore in my beach chair, my toes in the sand, and the heat of the sun hiding behind the clouds with a warm breeze blowing. Normally I would be reading a favorite book, but on this morning I wasn’t in the mood to read, but rather, just rest and people-watch.

Have you ever enjoyed watching strangers interact with one another? (I hope it’s not a sign of being nosy, but just an interest in how loved ones interact!) I watched playful couples jumping waves, old folks, hand in hand, walking along the edge of the waves, and toddlers making sand castles. I was relaxed, content and hadn’t a care in the world.

Until, my attention was drawn to the tears of a small little girl. She was about 3 years old, and she and her father had set up their umbrella near mine. I hadn’t noticed them much until I heard her father harshly scolding her for being fearful of the water.

He yelled, “Why are running away? Why?”

She tearfully responded, “I don’t like it. I’m afraid!”

Her father snapped, “I don’t like asparagus but you don’t see me running from that!”

She plopped herself on the sand, and the look of defeat on her little face, saddened me.

For the next hour or so, she sat playing in the sand alone; she had no toys to play with. It seemed as though her father was irritated and annoyed that he had to spend time with her, for he continuously ignored her questions.

Then, coincidentally, another family arrived at the beach and set up their space on the other side of me. This family also had a little girl, about the same age as the little girl who played alone.

This child was also at the beach with her father, but he seemed delighted to be spending the day with her. He was so attentive to her needs — lathering her with sunscreen, placing a life jacket and hat on her, and then pouring out the bag of shovels and toys. They played in the sand and then he asked if she wanted to play in the water. Her squeal was her only response, and together, they ventured into the scary ocean. But this young lady did not run away from the intimidating waves. Rather, she lifted her arms, and her father raised her safely in his embrace. They both laughed, played and had the best time.

I sat on my beach chair and was struck by this drastic difference in two children’s lives, feeling so sad for the one, and so happy for the other. It was then, that I felt the whisper of the Holy Spirit ask me: “Which of these two fathers do I best represent?” The choice was easy for me; for surely the attentive father was how I viewed the Lord. However, it hadn’t always been that way.

For much of my life, I viewed my heavenly father in the wrong manner. I felt He was annoyed with my shortcomings; how he didn’t want to be bothered with me; how my insecurities and fears made him ashamed of me. I pictured God much like the father who treated his daughter poorly. I felt God was annoyed, irritated, and harsh. My incorrect views of him led me to feel distant from the Lord and caused me strive to be “good enough.” It also resulted in a life filled with fear and anxiety.

But then I had an encounter with God and I realized how wrong I had been.

The truth is, I found God to be much like that dad on the beach who couldn’t take his eyes off of his girl. He’s attentive, goes to great lengths to spend time with me, does not condemn or shame me, and he’s safe.

As I have learned and enjoyed this new-found, proper revelation of my heavenly father’s love, I now do not strive to be good enough, because he loves me in spite of myself. The fear and anxiety that once consumed me has slowly melted away, as I recognize the truth of his presence and care in my life.

I sat for a while, meditating on the differences of how both girls will remember this day; one with lasting joy and the other with fear and sadness.

I recalled the Bible verse found in I John 4:18, “Perfect love cast out fear.” Oh, how true this is, whether it be for a little girl on the shores of the Delaware beach, or you and me struggling through the 2020 pandemic. Fear is real — as strong as the waves of the ocean. But we have a heavenly father who does not scold us or distance himself from us while we struggle. No, he loves us perfectly and desires to be with us through it all. All we need is to cry out to him, lift up our eyes and our arms. He is with us. He promises to carry us through the waves that could knock us down.

As I packed up my beach bag and began walking away, I glanced back at those two little girls and silently prayed for them, that despite their experiences, they would both come to realize, as we all must, that we have a God who adores us and desires a relationship with us.

How do you see your heavenly father? Harsh and distant or loving and protective? My friend, your view of him will change the course of your day — and your life.

Take His hand. He is for you. He delights in you. He desires to carry you through this time of uncertainty. His love for you will never end. His love for you will consume the fear and anxiety in your heart.

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

Psalm 23:4

Linda Summers is a pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship in Biglerville. She can be reached at lmsummers7@gmail.com

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