Years ago, I heard an acronym for ‘faith’ defined as “Full Assurance In The Heart” and it’s been one of my favorite ways to view the idea of faith. Full assurance. It’s like jumping into the middle of a swimming pool with full assurance that it’s full of water that will catch you when you land.
I remember one time at a youth Summer Camp, I sat and listened to a man tell us how he came to know Christ. In his college years, he was a competitive diver. One of the best. He’d often go to the pool late at night to work on his dives because nobody was there to disturb him.
One night, he felt the urge to have a late-night practice session, and he walked over to the campus pool. With the lights still off in the large swimming arena, he climbed to the top of the 10-meter dive platform. He walked to the edge of the platform, turned around to face the pool with his back, and extended his arms out to his sides as he prepared to jump.
Suddenly, the looked over at the wall and noticed his arms had cast a shadow of the cross from the light of the moon coming in through a skylight. In an instant, he felt something tug at his heart. He said he felt like he could feel Jesus speaking to him; asking him if he could finally have his total surrender. He surrendered on the spot and asked Jesus to fill his heart.
Rather than dive down, he decided to climb down the 10-meter platform and go home. His eyes had accustomed to the dark of the pool, and he looked into the diving well and saw a startling sight.
During the day, the pool had been drained completely for its annual cleaning. Had he taken his backwards plunge into the pool, he would have died.
That story made an impact on my heart, even as a young middle schooler. I’ll never forget it, nor the way the entire audience of students seemed to hold their breath as the man spoke on stage.
When I went home from Summer camp, I remember getting into an explosive argument with my Dad. Why? Because when he picked me up he said “Did you change?” And I felt righteously offended that he would insinuate I was in need of change (I was) and I took out my full wrath on him.
I’d give anything now to take back the words I hurled at my Dad, which were more of a testament to the fact that I needed change than anything else.
Last year, I decided it was time to start going back to church. At the time, I looked at a lot of the positive things my church experience brought to my life, and I started to analyze participation in a church community through the lens of being a Father. In particular, a single Dad.
I wanted Atlas to have a consistent group of friends that he could grow up with. I wanted a consistent group of adults that I could associate with who were sober, free of drugs, alcohol and who found their satisfaction in life from their relationship with God, rather than at a bar or dance floor – which I think is pretty pathetic.
So, I hunted around and went to a small handful of churches. I even went so far as to meet with their pastors outside of church hours, seeking to understand their heart and their vision for their church family.
There was one church that stood out to me above all of the others, and it’s the one that I eventually decided to start going to on a regular basis. There, both Atlas and I have found a consistent community of people that sincerely care about our well-being, encourage and support us and – most importantly – pray for both of us by name every single day.
I know this because I spoke to a man there who told me that he had been praying for me and Atlas for over a year – the time it took for me to decide to return to the church. I know that tears have been shed over us both as the members of that church lift up Dad and Son into the arms of God.
That sort of support is something you can’t find elsewhere. You certainly won’t find it at burning man.
That same man told me a few weeks ago about the birth of his grandson, and it absolutely stunned me.
There was a couple at the church who had been trying to conceive a child. The first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and they were absolutely devastated. Time went by and they continued to try. Eventually, she was pregnant and the family celebrated the news before tragedy struck once again.
She had miscarried. Again.
The man went over to their house seeking to comfort them and provide a measure of support. As soon as he pulled into the driveway, he told me that he heard the voice of God speak to him – boldly. As crazy as it sounds, he said that God told him the baby was still alive and to let both parents know.
This is the sort of thing you don’t want to get wrong. In fact, in a situation like this, I think most people would be content to hit ‘snooze’ on that sort of message, for fear they would somehow get it wrong and further drive into the pain both parents were experiencing.
Walking into the house, he said that the words simply came out of him, before he could stop them.
“God just told me the baby is still alive and that’s exactly how we need to be praying right now.” He said.
The house fell in silence. He was shocked the words came out.
That Monday, the parents went back to the doctor for an ultrasound.
The baby was still alive.
Several months later, she gave birth to a little boy. Four years later, that boy now plays with Atlas, and even goes so far as to remind his parents to pray for Atlas on their way to church.
I talked to the father this Sunday, and he told me “On our way to church this morning, we were praying for everybody and my son yelled out ‘Don’t forget to pray for Atlas!’”
That story touched my heart, and I think it’s a true testament to the power of prayer, faith and even the times where God pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
Today, I feel at peace knowing that I’ve stepped back onto the path that God set out for me before I took my first breath. I have peace knowing that Atlas is being surrounded by positive, uplifting people that he can look up to for support, encouragement and guidance as he grows up. And I know that through all of the trials and tribulations I have been through on my journey as a single Dad, there is a reason and purpose behind every situation I’ve encountered.