And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house! [Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (TLB)]
Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it. [Proverbs 22:6 (TLB)]
While walking on the beach last week, I saw a rack of life-vests. It was one of eleven such racks in our county’s free-of-charge loaner program: “Kid’s Don’t Float; Life Jackets Do!” Looking at those jackets made me think of a tragedy that occurred just a few days earlier on a beach in another county north of us, one that doesn’t have such a program. A nine-year old boy was playing in shallow water with his siblings when the wind gusted and what was described as a “freak” wave surged and knocked him over. The boy, who couldn’t swim, disappeared beneath the water and was swept away from shore. Nearly two days later his body was finally recovered.
Would a life vest program like our county’s have prevented this tragedy? Even if life jackets had been available, would he have worn one? We can only speculate as to whether knowing how to swim would have saved his life. The water was extremely choppy and even a strong swimmer would have had difficulty. Witnesses say the children were being properly supervised but that was not enough to protect this little boy. It was just a heart-breaking accident.
My sympathy and prayers go out to his family. Their tragedy, however, got me thinking about how easy it is for us all to think that children are safe or that we can protect them when really they’re not and we can’t. We lecture and supervise them and try to shield them from harm, poor choices, and the evil in our world but, short of keeping them in a bubble, it’s impossible. We have to let children make their way, not just at the beach, but in the treacherous waters they encounter every day in our troubled world. While we may not be able to prevent the rough seas, rip tides and undertows of life, we can do our best to equip youngsters to survive those hazards. Even more important than teaching them how to swim or insisting on a life vest, we must teach our children (and all the young people in our lives) God’s Word and raise them to know and love Jesus. We need to offer them more than a jacket made of nylon and foam to keep them from sinking under the schemes of the enemy. We need to show them how to use the best life preserver of all—the armor of God.