When I reflect on what it is to be a father of four, I seem to focus on the times when I was imperfect in my fathering, but then I recall the other times when I went on adventures with my children, and was delighted when I saw the world anew through their eyes. One such time was when I took my oldest two and the youngest one on a climbing excursion in the Austrian Alps.
Our friend and guide took us to a location, which he and his adult friends climbed in a couple of hours. In my sense of adventure, I was taking my three children up the side of the hill that turned out to be a 1,230-metre mountain. My children at the time were 9,7, and 4 years old, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that my guide hadn’t calculated their smaller legs in his estimation of us completing the climb in 3-4 hours!
We were half-way up the mountain when my son needed me to encourage him to traverse a 50-metre long talus slope that slid under our feet, and was very hard going. As I stood behind him, encouraging him to take the next step, and always ready to catch him if he fell, I realised we weren’t going to make it back to the car in the daylight. At this stage, we had no choice but to continue going up to gain the easier descending trail back to the parking lot, now so far away. We reached the top with three exhausted children, and as soon as we stopped, my youngest began to fall asleep in my arms. I knew she’d need to be carried down the mountain. While sharing our meagre rations, I looked into my children’s eyes and saw the sense of pride in them as they thought about what they’d conquered. As their father, I was both glad and apprehensive that we’d embarked on this adventure together, because I knew we still had to go down the mountain in the dark!
Being their father, I had to give them hope of a successful journey, so I rallied them to their feet, and my guide and friend strapped my youngest, who was fast asleep by now, to his chest. He then produced a penlight for me to carry, as I took the rear of our troop, to help light our way. I was so thankful that the path was a series of gentle slopes with stairs on the steeper sections, rather than the cliffs that we’d ascended.
We still proceeded forward with caution, as we descended in the dark. At one point, we came upon a section where the designer hadn’t continued the handrail all on one side of the stairs, but rather switched for some reason to the other side, half-way down. At this time I had the penlight in my mouth, so that my hands could be free. I saw my oldest daughter was heading for that section where the handrail switched sides, and she hadn’t seen that it had. I suddenly foresaw that as she reached out for the handrail that wasn’t there she’d fall off of the stairs into the darkness below. Being unable to shout a warning, I quickened my pace to time myself to be there when she began to fall, and grabbed her jacket pulling her back to safety. I still remember her words to this day. “Thank you, Papa!” uttered in a barely audible whisper as I held her tightly.
How often our Father in heaven rescues us from falls into the darkest depths, as we traverse the slopes in our lives. Even as a fallible father, I was able to save my daughter from a dangerous fall. How much more is our heavenly Father able to rescue us? Our heavenly Father is always with us, encouraging us to go through those difficult sections, to give encouragement, and always ready to catch us if we slip. He even smooths out the path, removing the stones that would cause us to trip as we continue along in obedient trust of Him.
Are you held back from fear of what’s before you, even though you know it’s the way God has for you to go? Trust your Father to be there to save you from any possible slip you may encounter. His timing is perfect. His ability is unmatched. He never leaves us, nor forsakes us. His hand is steady and strong!
Prayer: Oh Father, how I need Your hand on me now, as I begin to move out on the path set before me! Show me the way! Help me to depend on You! I trust You to lead and protect me as I move along step by step. I will listen for Your encouraging words, and Your words of caution, knowing You’re with me! Your unfailing love is the foundation of my hope and success in this adventure You have for me. Thank You, Lord, for fathering me! Amen.
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