Some of my best memories of Portugal took place on a beach. If there is one thing I miss the most is gazing at the ocean and its vastness. I loved feeling the cool and gentle breeze of the coastal line welcoming each morning as a new beginning. But it was later in the day that the real magic would take place; when the horizon served as a canvas for a beautiful sunset. To experience both in one day would be a blessing. I can appreciate it more now than I did before. Maybe it’s because I can recognize the dangers of the water more clearly. In my life I’ve experienced the thrill of waves that engulfed me in joy and pain.
Swimming with my Dad
I was born a surprise. At 50 my Dad was looking forward to slower days and calmer times. I didn’t necessarily change his plans but he still compromised in certain moments. Going to the beach would always provide the right opportunity to bond. It would change as I got older but the memories remain. As a little child I remember holding his hands with trust. His palms were rugged and I believed he could stand it all.
I can recall being as young as 7 and my Dad would place me on his shoulders and he would jump in the water. He would challenge the waves as an authoritative figure. In the water, despite his age, he was the fittest and most courageous man around. I remember holding on to his shoulders while he swam far, far away; to a point where the beach looked like miles in the distance. I remember being scared. He could sense it and he would say: “Don’t worry son. I’m here. I’m not going to let you go.”
As I got older our relationship changed. My Dad was from a generation oppressed by the Portguese dictatorship. You didn’t ask heart sinking questions; you didn’t interrogate decisions that were one-sided; you didn’t share the deepest areas of your soul. With no one else to open up to, the reality of a dark world came crashing down on me; like an ocean’s wave.
It is hard to even write words that express the chasm created in our relationship. We still spoke about the mundane and I respected his leadership at home. But it wasn’t the same. I was growing up and ready to face the waters myself. I just know I couldn’t do it on my own. But that is how I felt; alone because he choose to not enter the water with me.
Swimming with a Father
The beautiful part of this story comes from knowing that a sunset is most enjoyable with others by your side. Next to me were brothers and sisters who embraced me just as I was and spoke of the one who will always go in the water with you; the one whose hands are not just rugged but also… pierced.
The introduction to Jesus wasn’t formal. The reality is that He was there all along: when others belittled me; when so-called friends questioned my faith; when my eartly father choose not to come in the water with me. Instead, Jesus entered the ocean by my side.
A cross stands in the place where He washed me clean. A beacon of light that inspired a song I would play to my wife and children. A song that still provides hope to anyone getting beaten by the waves.
When the waves come crashing down, when my face hits the ground.
I will need something strong; a right above all wrongs.
And I say God, you are my God.
And you’ll always be true, my life-savior is you.
Jesus, Jesus, come rescue me.
Jesus, Jesus, come set me free.
I heard a gentle voice, above all life’s noise.
My savior was calling me and I was rescue from life’s see.
And I said God, you are my God.
And you’ve always been true, my life-savior is you.
Jesus, Jesus, you came and rescued me.
Jesus, Jesus, you came and set me free.
David Marques, 2002
Jesus was and is my life-savior. The one who goes in the water with you; the one who withstands the weight of the waves; the one whose words remain true even in the darkest of storms…
“Don’t worry son. I’m here. I’m not going to let you go.”