Note: Each year at Christmas, I share this same story with my readers. I share it because my life was changed forever through the sacrificial love of one man – my father. God’s gift to us at Christmas is His eternal, unchanging love – the love of our Heavenly Father.
As a ten year-old boy, my father did something that changed my life forever. For many years, my dad served as the adult leader for a boys mission group called Royal Ambassadors, in our home church in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Yes, that’s really the name of a small town in south central Kentucky. Among the many things we looked forward to as boys, was the annual camping trip with our fathers. That year, we went to one of our favorite places, an island in Dale Hollow Lake, on the border between Tennessee and Kentucky. We loved going to that remote island because the only way to get there was by boat, or by crossing a really cool swinging bridge. Dad and the other fathers liked it because the island kept us rowdy boys somewhat contained.
On the last day of our trip, just before we were to head back, we talked our fathers into letting us go swimming one last time. The dads were on the shore fully clothed, while we boys played in the water with our inner tubes, inflatable rafts, and such. I was floating on one of the rafts, eyes closed, enjoying the warm sun, and listening to the other boys. No one noticed I was slowing floating further and further away from the shore. Half asleep, I was startled by screaming and yelling from what seemed like a long, long distance away. You guessed it! I had floating thirty or forty yards out into the middle of the lake. All the other boys were yelling, “Larry, come back!” I’m not really sure what happened after that, but next thing I knew, the raft was ten feet away, my feet could not touch the bottom, and I didn’t know how to swim. Arms thrashing, gasping for breath, and swallowing at least a gallon of lake water, I remember going under and coming back up at least twice. After that, the next thing I remembered was being carried to the shore. Coughing and spitting out water I remember seeing my dad’s face, and feeling his enormous arms holding me tight. I literally felt his love.
My dad, not only saved my life, he also demonstrated love in a way I would never forget. The long drive back to our home is something I can picture in my mind as if it were yesterday. I’m sitting in the front seat of our 1959 Ford station wagon, as close to my dad as possible, and thinking how lucky I was to have a dad like mine. I began to understand a father’s love, and began a journey that would eventually lead me to know and embrace the love of my Heavenly Father.
Since his death in 1987, I often think of my dad at Christmas. Being one of seven siblings, there were some years when I didn’t receive a lot of gifts at Christmas. But my dad’s love for his family, and his love for God were the most important and valuable gifts he gave me as a child. Through his consistent, faithful example, he taught us the value of a father’s love.
I pray you will enjoy the love of your heavenly Father during this Christmas season! Remember, He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to give His life for us. Oh, how He loves us!
“God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He love us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” 1 John 4:9-11