Magic Springs wore me out last week.
Correction. The heat, combined with my children’s nonstop energy, wore me out.
The amusement park nestled in the outskirts of Hot Springs, Arkansas is a popular place to take families for summer fun where they can zoom down water slides, swim, splash in freeze zones, play games like bumper cars or catch a ride on numerous pulse-stopping roller coasters.
After hours swimming in the hot sun, the older kids wanted to ride a coaster. My friend offered to watch my son play in the kiddie pool while I took one teenager, one preteen, and three giggling seven-year olds to ride the Arkansas Twister. There was virtually no line that day so we rode the wooden roller coaster several times. Five, six, seven…they didn’t want to stop.
After the third trip through, I got off and told them I would stay by the entrance and snap their pictures as they zoomed by. No problem. I got some great shots of the laughing troop of estrogen. The longer I stood, the warmer I became. Ninety-five degrees with eighty-nine percent humidity feels like you’re standing in a furnace while a llama licks your face. Soon I was sweating through my clothes and decided to find a bit of shade until the girls had ridden themselves empty.
I found the perfect spot right beside the exit stairs where passengers left the Twister. It put me as close as possible to the girls without actually sitting on the coaster with them. A bit of shade. Blessed relief.
Another ten minutes passed when I heard a heartbroken wail. My oldest daughter descended the stairs with her arms around my youngest daughter who was sobbing.
“You see? Mom’s right there. There’s no reason to be upset.”
My heart sank. Poor Callie. My youngest daughter has battled anxiety for years. She carries a heavy burden on her small shoulders and though we’ve made tremendous strides, the old enemy of fear still rises up from time to time.
I patted the bench next to me. “Come here, sweetheart. Why are you crying?”
“Because…I…couldn’t…see you! I…saw you…before…and then…you…were gone.”
I tugged her close and kissed her hair. “That’s true but do you know why I changed spots? The heat was making me feel bad. I needed shade so I moved. But I didn’t just move any old place. I moved somewhere I would be closer to you if you needed me.”
Callie sniffed and looked around. “You are closer to us here, aren’t you?”
I smiled, “Yep. Let me ask you something. When you didn’t see me, what was the first thing you did? Pray or panic?”
She blinked. “I freaked out.”
“Yeah. And why did you freak out?”
She shrugged and scuffed the concrete with the toe of her shoe. “I guess because I assumed if I didn’t see you that you had left me.”
I squeezed her close. “Have I ever left you before?”
She shook her head. “No. Never.”
“And I never will. Just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean I’ve left. In this case, not being able to see me was a very good thing because I was actually closer to you than I was before.”
With a long pause, I realized God was capturing my attention at the same time I spoke truth and comfort to my child.
How many times have I wondered if God saw me, especially when I couldn’t feel His presence? How many times have I believed the lie that said it was up to me—my effort, my work and my eyes on Him—to keep our relationship close? And while a relationship, any relationship, is a two-way street, deep in my heart I know that anything left up to my own efforts is doomed to fail. That is where Grace moves in.
He draws me to Him. He comes after me when I stray. He sees my need and moves to fill the gaps in my crumbled, broken weakness. When fear rattles the doorknob, He is close…closer than eyes can see.
Sometimes we have to ignore what our fickle emotions scream at us, silence the lies of what we think we know and stand firm on the promises of God’s Word. He said He will never leave us. He says His love for us is incomprehensible. It is not dependent on anything we do or are unable to do. We need only let His grace move in and hold us.
I don’t have to see Him to know He’s there.
I startled back to the present when Callie offered a shaky smile and wiped the tears from her blotchy face. “I think I’m ready to ride it again. My friends are waiting for me.”
“Okay, sweetie. Only if you’re sure.”
She looked over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs.
“It’s okay, Mom. Now I know. Just because I can’t see you doesn’t mean you’re not there.”