Safe and Secure from all Alarms
I love watching nature shows. When the BBC’s Planet Earth came out, it was an amazing gift. The number of times we would hear the words, “This is the first time this has ever been caught on camera” was astounding. Recently, I have started (albeit quite slowly) watching Netflix’s Our Planet. There are incredibly fascinating scenes and commentary. I have really enjoyed getting into it.
One of the things that I love about this shows is those moments when a predator is stalking its prey. I was watching wild African dogs (I can’t remember the actual name) hunting wildebeests. The narrator was explaining that the dogs would try to pick off the weak or the young. The dogs would get the entire herd moving and take down a young calf. Then the show transitioned to a clip of the dogs starting the chase. The herd of wildebeests starts running and one of the young calves falls behind the rest of the herd. Then, just as you think this is going to end badly for the young wildebeests, an older wildebeests steps in and runs between the dog and the calf just long enough for the calf to join back up with the herd. The hunt is over and the dogs go off hungry.
It is one of those amazing aspects of nature. There is something instinctive in the animals to protect their young, to keep the young in the herd from danger. We can see that instinct in a lot of animals. We can remember the old proverb ‘Don’t get between a mother bear and her cub.’ We see that same instinct in humans. I mean, I would do anything to protect Grace and Calvin. There is nothing rational about it. I didn’t make a choice when I held Calvin in my arms that I would do anything for him, something simply clicked in my brain and all rationality concerning his wellbeing disappeared. The same is true with Grace. From the moment we heard about her, all I have wanted to do is make that she is safe and secure. I can’t do anything physically about this right now and it kills me.
The funny thing is, I really can’t do anything for Grace or Calvin to guarantee that they will be safe and secure. Sure I can do a lot to provide the environment, but it isn’t in my power to keep them from all harm. I have been thinking about that a lot. I have been thinking about my responsibility to keep Grace and Calvin from the wild dogs that would try to pick them off from the herd. How can I protect them from that?
That brings me to something Bavinck said in his The Sacrifice of Praise.
The first and highest cause of this preservation is God. He is not only the Creator but also the Preserver of all things [Col. 1:16–17]…. But as a rule, God’s work of preservation is indirect. He uses food and drink to nourish us, and he uses parents, as the natural caregivers, to provide for the many needs of the child. The parents must lay up treasures for the children, and the children live on those treasures. They have not earned them, nor in the least are they entitled to them; the children are purely dependent and live by grace.
God is the one that protects and sustains my children. Now he does this through the indirect means of Taryn and me, but he is the ultimate source of their protection. As parents we are the principle instruments in God’s hands to keep our children from all harm. Yet, we are just instruments. A hammer does not work on its own, a hammer is only good if it is in the hand of the carpenter who is constructing the building.
Taryn and I have to do our best to ensure that our children grow up in an environment that is safe and secure; safe for questions, secure from all sorts of evil, safe to fail. Yet, we can do all that is in our power and there is a still an element of faith that we need. God does not call us as Christians to our salvation by faith but the rest of our life by works. No, faith both saves and sanctifies us. Walking with our children is a constant reminder to walk by faith and not by sight; trusting the Lord to fulfill his promises.
The interesting thing about nature shows is that you don’t really know if that wildebeest that blocks the calf off from the dogs is the mother of the calf. All you know is that it is an older wildebeest. When the calf is back in the herd, you don’t know if it finds its father right away. All you know is that it is back amongst the herd and is safe.
There is something to learn from that. There is a role for people who aren’t Grace and Calvin’s parents in protecting them. In our denomination, a question is asked of the congregation at the baptism of a child: Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child? The question is metaphorically asking ‘Will you run alongside this child to make sure the wild dogs don't take this child down?’ It is an awesome responsibility. Bavinck goes on in The Sacrifice of Praise to speak of this:
The instruction of the church does not include the task that awaits the children in civil and societal life, but it maintains the connection that God has laid between the two signs and seals of his covenant. It seeks to bring covenant children up to maturity, making them conscious confessing members of the church of Christ.
There is an innate instinct to protect our children, to make sure they are kept from all harm. The work of the parents and the work of the church are not in opposition to each other; they stand in solidarity. Both try to run alongside the young ones among us to ensure that the wild dogs (the world, the flesh, and the devil) do not take them down. We do all we can, but we do it all in faith. In faith, that it is the Lord who has made promises and will keep them. He is the ultimate source of protection and preservation. He keeps his children safe and secure from all alarms.