Nathan on the Beach

by Donna Fiser Ward

Following is an experience I had earlier this year. It illustrates how my prayer life has been impacted by the book The Uncontrolling Love of God by Thomas Jay Oord. God is present in the current moment everywhere. In an instance of fear of the unknown I was able to Profile Picturecommune with God who is omnipresent. I held on to God for comfort in a situation when God was there with someone I loved, whom I wished I could have been with in that very moment, but I could not.

We had walked through town to a beach in Nassau. Nathan, who is 18 years old and can’t stay long in one place to save his life said, “I’m going to walk to the other edge of the beach.” It looked as if it ended at a stone wall which I could see.  Because  I’m one of those moms who generally always says, “yes,” I did, but I turned around and couldn’t see him anymore.  Fifteen minutes passed before I mentioned to my husband, Ken, one of us really should have gone with him.  After another five minutes passed, I nudged, “One of us needs to go find him.”

I stayed with the towels and our daughter Rachel.   Ken started walking down the beach. Ten minutes later I saw Ken returning without Nathan. There is no terror in the world–no shark, no alien invasion, no maniac with a chainsaw—compared with the fear which rose in my flesh at that moment. Panicked, I spouted, ”Where’s Nathan?”
“I didn’t see him. I came back for my shoes. It is rough walking up around the corner.”

I’ve seen the movies, Taken and Vanished, and I am aware of human trafficking, have contributed to the ministries combating it and my churches have hosted the missionaries who educate about it. Sometimes knowledge can be a curse. “You and Rachel need to stay here. I will be back in a minute,” Ken said when he had shoved his shoes on his feet.

In a few minutes I thought aloud.  “Rachel, maybe you and I need to follow Ken.”

“No. We need to stay here like Ken said, ” Rachel replied. I looked at her and marveled at how much more mature at fifteen she was than I had been at the same age. I could see the look in her eyes, too. She had never seen me like this. For that matter I had never seen me like this, not even when Nathan was three years old and I lost him in a big room at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. My own mother was with me then.

“We’ll find him,” she assured me as we walked around the corner.

That day when Nathan’s little body emerged from some crawlspace, I hugged him. “Mommy didn’t know where you were and I was scared.”

What would we choose to do in this particular moment of terror? I stood in the sand next to Rachel, reached out and grabbed hold of a chain link fence. If it was the hand of God I was grabbing, I must have broken every bone in it squeezing so tightly. I could not think. All I could do was pray over and over again in my mind with varying degrees of intonation, “You know where he is right now and I don’t. You know where he is right now and I don’t.”

I stood there and prayed for what seemed like an eternity until Rachel announced, “Here they come!”

“Where was he?” I asked.

“I caught him heading back,” said Ken.  “When I walked down the first time he was in the bathroom and I didn’t see him.” Of course he was in the bathroom! Who do we have to stop for every hour on a road trip? Nathan! Who do we ban from drinking Mountain Dews in the car? Nathan!

Then my independent soul of a son said, “I don’t see what the big fuss is. I just went for a walk to the end of the beach. Don’t you see it right over there?”

“I’m not going to apologize for being a mom,” I reminded him, along with the usual, “When you are a parent you will understand but, as for this vacation, no one goes anywhere without a partner again for the rest of this trip. In the words of Forest Gump, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.'”

Somewhere on the walk back to the cruise ship my heart rate returned to normal! ““Don’t worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day’s trouble is enough for one day.”—Matthew 6:34.

Donna Fiser Ward is an ordained Elder and pastor in the United Methodist Church serving at The Lighthouse UMC, Inc. in Elizabeth, Indiana.

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