My son Jeremy was an itty-bitty thing when he first started going off the diving board at just 5 years of age. He’d barely gone off the shorter diving board 10 times when he decided to try the high dive, which quickly became his favorite. In the line of big kids he looked so small, nervously biting his fingernails while he waited his turn.
After years of having to follow behind Jeremy in the baby pool, walking on my knees in the warm water, I was finally off the hook. I soaked in the comfort of the hot tub with a view of the diving boards as he repeatedly leaped off the high dive.
Relaxed by the warm water, I leaned back and watched my little guy when his turn came. Climbing the 10-foot ladder, Jeremy was almost to the top when his hands slipped. In horror, I could do nothing but watch as he fell backward, his hands stretching out toward the railings, just out of reach, his head aiming toward the cement below. Halfway to the ground his feet slipped in between the rungs of the ladder, his body did a sudden flip, and he landed on the cement with a sickening thud.
The worst fear of my life was that something would happen to Jeremy, and that day my nightmare had come true.
Though I had been paralyzed with terror as I watched him fall, I was instantly on my feet, wrestling my way through the water, up the steps of the hot tub, racing toward him.
“He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead,” my heart chanted.
Jeremy had been a long-awaited child. Infertility had kept our home empty of children for eight years of marriage. I had felt like Hannah when my promised son arrived through adoption. Soon our world revolved around him. His giggle gave us joy; his smile was a ray of sunshine. The worst fear of my life was that something would happen to him, and that day my nightmare had come true.
Parenting has expanded my understanding of God, yet it has left me bewildered at God’s gift to us of freedom of choice. How can He let us do as we want, knowing that our choices can destroy us or cause Him to lose us entirely? Yes, sometimes we succeed; sometimes we make Him proud. But does He ever watch us with terror in His heart, as I watch Jeremy as a mother?
Though I was certain my baby was dead, by the time I reached Jeremy he was trying to sit up, crying as one of the lifeguards leaned over him. She took him to a bench and checked him out, asking him questions and peering into his pupils. Other than a few scratches on his legs where they’d been caught by the rungs of the ladder, he was whole.
Knowing what I know now about the danger of concussions, I should have packed my little boy up then and there and taken him home. But Jeremy wanted to swim some more. So we returned to the kiddie pool, where he stayed glued to me as he had when he was a toddler.
It wasn’t long, though, before Jeremy assured me that he wanted to go off the low diving board. As he padded over to the diving board and waited in line, it was all I could do to keep from calling his name and forcing him to come back to safety, back to where I could protect him from hurt and harm.
He stood in line, so small between the confident teenagers.
What astounded me was that after two low-dive jumps, he was again at the base of the high-dive ladder, wiping his palms deliberately on the legs of his swim shorts before he climbed, his little hands gripping the railings tightly.
I watched Jeremy, wondering how God must feel when He looks at His children making their own choices in this risky world, my mama-heart in my throat, proud and terrified.
Becky Colvin is a teaching aide at Three Sisters Adventist Christian School in Bend, Oregon.