I watched their goggled eyes stare as they swam closer and closer to the twisty slide. Knowing that my children are naturally cautious in the water, I could almost see the deliberation in their little minds between risk and reward. They grew in courage with each little sun-screened body that popped smiling out of the chute until the desire for the reward overcame the fear of the risk.
As they bravely joined the line of shivering bodies moving at a snail pace up to the top, my heart was pounding. In the grand scheme of things, a small twisting water slide is not a huge deal; however, for my little men, and thus for me, this was a moment of huge risk. I kept throwing up double thumbs-up and prayers for them as they glanced nervously at me from the heights.
I felt an inordinate amount of relief, pride and joy when my two little men emerged, all smiles, from the bottom of the slide. From my mostly internal reaction, you would have thought they had just qualified for the summer Olympics.
I had tears in my eyes as I hugged them quickly before they confidently stole off to do the slide yet again. Of course, I was proud of them, but the tears were more a result of a profound moment I had with the Lord as I waded and watched them. there, sitting in the pool watching them.
I love how even imperfect parenting offers little glimpses into the perfections of our Heavenly parent. From my perspective with my children, I saw a glimpse of God’s perspective for each of His children.
Our Heavenly Father constantly sets before His children risks and their corresponding rewards. While He deeply, even desperately wants us to know the rewards of obedience and faith, He will not override our wills. He will woo and continally encourage His children, but He will not force us. He will cheer and encourage and use every incentive possible to help us risk, but He will never coerce. That’s just not His way.
The angel Gabriel came to Mary, offering her the chance to be the mother of God incarnate; incredible reward that required unthinkable risks: an unwed, inexplicable pregnancy, not to mention the weight of raising the Christ. Real risk and real reward.
While on earth, Jesus invited a handful of fishermen to the incredible reward of friendship and partnership with Him, but the reward required them to risk the loss of their livelihood and the only life they had ever known. Real risk and real reward.
Mary and Martha were promised the reward, “Your brother will rise again, ” but they were also called to risk, as they first had to, by faith, give permission for the stone of the sealed tomb to be rolled away. Real risk and real reward.
Zaccheus, Matthew the tax collector, Mary of Magdala, Saul of Tarsus, the list goes on and on. Everyone who encountered Christ on earth was invited to risk for the sake of great reward; the same holds true for those who encounter the living Christ in the Scriptures through the Spirit of God.
Not all decided to take the risks set before them. The rich young man opted out of the reward of treasure in Heaven because the risk of losing a functional god by selling his possesssions seemed too great.
God sets before His children both monumental and more momentary risks and rewards. The monumental include the huge life risks like salvation, vocation, marriage and parenthood. The momentary include the smaller risks that we encounter on a daily basis like making room in our hearts for a new friendship, submitting a resume when we have been out of work, initiating a spiritual conversation with a coworker or getting to know someone who swims in different seas than we do.
Both matter deeply to the heart of God, who as a loving Father, longs that His children know the great rewards that come only through risking faith.
As I watched my children risk for the sake of reward at the twisty slide, the Lord was gracious to remind me that there are a plethora of twisy slides in my own life, places where joy and great reward were waiting on the other side of real risk, whether great of small.
Watching my little guys pluck up courage, I was convicted of so often wading content in the shallows for fear of risking the deeper waters or the dangerous slides.
Beginning new discipleship relationships, initiating gospel diagloues with agnostic friends, picking back up passions that have long been laid aside or buried, walking with my children into the pre-teen years. These are the towering twisy slides in my life these days, beckoning me to risk for the sake of reward.
What are your twisty slides? Where and with whom is God inviting you to risk for greater reward?
May we be a people who risk greatly with hope of great reward. But even more so, may we be a people confident that we have a loving, patient Father setting us up, a Risen Jesus praying for us and an indwelling Spirit strengthening us as we attempt risks both great and small.
On to the twisty slides!