"Would you be willing," my pastor asked, "to send your son to his death to save another?" It was as if the question was meant exclusively for me that cool autumn Sunday morning.
"No!" I silently cried, "I would not be willing!"
There was no question in my mind. I knew instantly and without doubt. I would never willfully send my son to his death to save another. This was no ethereal question for me. I knew the answer in advance because, just one week before, my son had risked his life to save a 13-year-old boy, and in the process nearly lost his own.
Kirk was on duty at the Coast Guard Station in Crescent City, California when a frantic call from a desperate mother sent everyone scrambling. Her son had been knocked off a rocky jetty into the angry surf below. His young body was quickly swallowed up by the boisterous waves. My son, already wearing his wetsuit, and his partner quickly manned a boat and sped to the area where the young boy was last seen. The powerful waves were too rough for the boat to withstand and forced it to retreat to a calmer area. But not before Kirk had jumped into the frigid water.
For several moments he frantically searched for the lost boy. In time, his Coast Guard commander yelled to him from the shoreline. Kirk would have to dive into the exact spot where the boy fell. "Are you sure?" my son said in a reluctant, almost argumentative tone. He knew the lethal area the boy had fallen into with its sharp rocks and strangling kelp. He could loose his own life while trying to save, perhaps, a dead body.
"It's got to be done!" commanded the officer.
Into the turbulent sea he dove, the wave-action smashing his body against rocks that cut and bruised him, while kelp threatened to entangle him. But he pressed on and was able to dive for several hours. Eventually a helicopter air-lifted him to shore where he sat, shivering against the damp sea air until dark, watching for the boy's body to appear. The next morning the lifeless victim was found draped over a cluster of nearby rocks.
For over three decades I have prayed God's protection over my children while, at the same time, relinquishing them to the Lord. And I have felt a great peace, real victory, time and time again over situations that have come into their lives, even though I did not know at the time what those issues were.
From his ordeal, Kirk was scratched, bruised, and suffered a severe muscle injury in his back that crippled him for many years. He was also emotionally distraught over the boy's death. But he was alive!
During the days that followed, I wrestled with my emotions. I was a grateful, proud mother. But I also experienced moments of anger and sorrow. I hurt for my son, but was also confident that God would be glorified, even in such a painful tragedy as this.
A week after Kirk's ordeal, my pastor asked that probing question: "Would you be willing to send your son to his death to save another?" No. Not that!
As I thought of that personal reality, it struck me like a hammer to my heart that God had required nothing less of Himself. He determined His only son must die in order to save you and me from the sea of sin and death.
I have long realized the sacrifice Jesus made when He gave his life on the cross to save us all. But I had never seriously considered the "sacrifice" the Father made to send His only beloved Son to that cross! Maybe it was because I was still so tender from Kirk's wrenching experience, but I suddenly realized with more depth and emotion that I can adequately describe, how heart-breaking it must have been for God to send Jesus to suffer and die on the cross.
God further illustrated the agony of His decision by letting me relate to it in a human analogy:
Kirk, his six-year-old sister, Kristen and I were walking on the jetty. Kristen was running on the rocks, disobeying our orders to stop (a picture of sin and sinner). A wave (life and adversity) knocked her into the life-threatening water (hell, eternal separation from God). Now here is the big question: would I hesitate to send my son, whom I loved no less than my daughter, but who was strong and able to save her? No, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment, nor would he think twice about jumping in to save a sister he loves more than his own life. But could I ask my son to rescue his sister knowing that he would die? No! I couldn't do that. Never.
That, however, is exactly the decision God made for us: the death of His son in exchange for eternal life for you and me.
What if Kristen refused Kirk's help because she didn't believe he could save her? Or if she foolishly thought she could save herself? People do this to Jesus everyday! Jesus can save them from any sin situation if they will just trust Him! Nothing is impossible with Jesus. Romans 5:6 says, "When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him." (Living Bible) "For God loved the world (you and me) so much that He gave his only Son so that anyone who believes (trusts) in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it." John 3:16 and 17 (Living Bible).
These scriptures now have more meaning to me as I see that God has real feelings and emotions, although His decisions are not clouded by His emotions as ours sometimes are. My prayer is that others too will see the price God paid when He sent His only Son to the cross to save us. Through this heart-breaking, but necessary, sacrifice we can draw closer to God, both while here on the earth, and ultimately to His eternal glory in heaven.