I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but here goes: when I’m at the beach with my two toddlers, I live with a persistent, low-grade fear that they’re going to get swept up by a wave and drown.
Granted, we’ve been to the beach several times with our girls, and neither of them have ever come close. But even when they aren’t in the water, the prospect of it lurks in my mind.
Sometimes, in my imagination, I see myself scrambling to find one of them in the water, or I see a crowd of people quietly watching from the beach as rescue workers try to resusitate my daughter. It’s not real; it’s not going to happen – but it stands guard over my mind, ensuring that I’m not fully present, that I don’t enjoy the moment.
Aside from my fears about the girls’ mortality, I’m regularly correcting them, making sure they’re sharing the beach toys, or I’m harping at one of them for pushing the other’s face in the sand. Then later on, after we’ve left the beach, I find myself wishing I could go back in time and just be with them.
Scripture talks about our call to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15). Last weekend, I had my opportunity. We were on the beach with the girls, and in no time, my fear of the killer wave started creeping in again. Shortly thereafter, Renee stole Daniela’s sand toy, a yelling match between them ensued, and I ended it by raising my voice. This pattern went on for a while.
Then a few thoughts crossed my mind: I often live in fear of a future that doesn’t exist, and I also live in regret of a past I cannot change. But I can’t go into the future and prevent every harm that threatens my girls. Nor will I be able to go back into the past and enjoy my girls at this brief stage of their lives. This moment, the present, is the only chance I’ve got to live into reality, so I’d better start living in it now.
And so that day on the beach, I actually enjoyed my little girls as they played – well, I did for twenty minutes or so. But it was a start. I redeemed a little time; I was fully present with my daughters, and nothing will ever take those moments away from me.