Leap Into Big Arms: Trusting God
I STAND six steps from the bed’s edge. My arms extended. Hands open. On the bed Sara—all four years of her— crouches, posed like a playful kitten. She’s going to jump. But she’s not ready. I’m too close.
“Back more, Daddy,” she stands and dares. I dramatically comply, confessing admiration for her courage. After two giant steps I stop. “More?” I ask.
“Yes!” Sara squeals, hopping on the bed. With each step she laughs and claps and motions for more. When I’m on the other side of the canyon, when I’m beyond the reach of mortal man, when I am but a tiny figure on the horizon, she stops me. “There, stop there.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” she shouts. I extend my arms. Once again she crouches, then springs. Superman without a cape. Skydiver without a chute. Only her heart flies higher than her body. In that airborne instant her only hope is her father. If he proves weak, she’ll fall. If he proves cruel, she’ll crash. If he proves forgetful, she’ll tumble to the hard floor.
But such fear she does not know, for her father she does. She trusts him. Four years under the same roof have convinced her he is reliable. He is not superhuman, but he is strong. He is not holy, but he is good. He’s not brilliant, but he doesn’t have to be to remember to catch his child when she jumps.
And so she flies.
And so she soars.
And so he catches her and the two rejoice at the wedding of her trust and his faithfulness.
I stand a few feet from another bed. This time no one laughs. The room is solemn. A machine pumps air into a tired body. A monitor metronomes the beats of a weary heart. The woman on the bed is no child. She was, once. Decades back. She was. But not now.
Like Sara, she must trust. Only days out of the operating room, she’s just been told she’ll have to return. Her frail hand squeezes mine. Her eyes mist with fear. Unlike Sara, she sees no father. But the Father sees her. Trust him, I say to us both. Trust the voice that whispers your name. Trust the hands to catch.
I sit across the table from a good man. Good and afraid. His fear is honest. Stocks are down. Inflation is up. He has payroll to meet and bills to pay. He hasn’t squandered or gambled or played. He has worked hard and prayed often, but now he’s afraid. Beneath the flannel suit lies a timid heart.
He stirs his coffee and stares at me with the eyes of Wile E. Coyote who just realizes he’s run beyond the edge of a cliff. He’s about to fall and fall fast. He’s Peter on the water, seeing the storm and not the face. He’s Peter in the waves, hearing the wind and not the voice. Trust, I urge. But the word thuds. He’s unaccustomed to such strangeness. He’s a man of reason. Even when the kite flies beyond the clouds he still holds the string. But now the string has slipped. And the sky is silent.
I stand a few feet from a mirror and see the face of a man who failed. . . who failed his Maker. Again. I promised I wouldn’t, but I did. I was quiet when I should have been bold. I took a seat when I should have taken a stand. If this were the first time, it would be different. But it isn’t. How many times can one fall and expect to be caught? Trust. Why is it easy to tell others and so hard to remind self? Can God deal with death? I told the woman so. Can God deal with debt? I ventured as much with the man. Can God hear yet one more confession from these lips? The face in the mirror asks.
I sit a few feet from a man on death row. Jewish by birth. Tentmaker by trade. Apostle by calling. His days are marked. I’m curious about what bolsters this man as he nears his execution. So I ask some questions.
Do you have family, Paul? I have none.
What about your health? My body is beaten and tired.
What do you own? I have my parchments. My pen. A cloak.
And your reputation? Well, it’s not much. I’m a heretic to some, a maverick to others.
Do you have friends? I do, but even some of them have turned back.
Any awards? Not on earth.
Then what do you have, Paul? No belongings. No family. Criticized by some. Mocked by others. What do you have, Paul? What do you have that matters? I sit back quietly and watch. Paul rolls his hand into a fist. He looks at it. I look at it. What is he holding? What does he have? He extends his hand so I can see. As I lean forward, he opens his fingers. I peer at his palm. It’s empty.
I have my faith. It’s all I have. But it’s all I need. I have kept the faith.
Paul leans back against the wall of his cell and smiles. And I lean back against another and stare into the face of a man who has learned that there is more to life than meets the eye. For that’s what faith is. Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see.
Eyes see the prowling lion. Faith sees Daniel’s angel.
Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow.
Eyes see giants. Faith sees Canaan.
Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior.
Your eyes see your guilt. Your faith sees His blood.
Your eyes see your grave. Your faith sees a city whose Builder and Maker is God.
Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure, a promise-breaker. But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face.
But wait a minute, someone asks. How do I know this is true? Nice prose, but give me the facts. How do I know these aren’t just fanciful hopes? Part of the answer can be found in Sara’s little leaps of faith. Her older sister, Andrea, was in the room watching, and I asked Sara if she would jump to Andrea. Sara refused. I tried to convince her. She wouldn’t budge. “Why not?” I asked.
“I only jump to big arms.”
If we think the arms are weak, we won’t jump. For that reason, the Father flexed His muscles. “God’s power is very great for those who believe,” Paul taught. “That power is the same as the great strength God used to raise Christ from the dead” (Eph. 1:19—20).
Next time you wonder if God can catch you, read that verse. The very arms that defeated death are the arms awaiting you.
Next time you wonder if God can forgive you, read that verse. The very hands that were nailed to the cross are open for you.
And the next time you wonder if you will survive the jump, think of Sara and me. If a flesh-and-bone-headed dad like me can catch his child, don’t you think your eternal Father can catch you?