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The Cha Family in Japan

More Than Just A Paddle Boat

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This summer, we did several day trips to explore different parts of Japan near our city. Summer break had just started, so one day we went to a park in a prefecture adjacent to ours. The park was simply amazing. There were go-carts, a creative play area, a toboggan down a cement course, and more. The day was hot and humid, but that didn’t stop the girls from having a lot of fun. And as an added bonus during these COVID times, the park was pretty empty. All in all, it was a great family day.

But that night, as I was about to go to sleep, a nagging memory came to mind. Shortly after arriving at the park, near the entrance, there was a pond where you could ride paddle boats. The girls and I decided to do it together without Damon because the maximum capacity was 3 people. As the attendant led us to the boat, I could feel the girls’ excitement. In order to pedal, Aliya and I sat on the right and left side of the boat, and Mikayla was in the middle, where she could move the boat with the steering wheel. 

Aliya and I began to pedal backwards to get out and away from the dock. It was growing hotter in the boat, with its plastic top, the blazing sun and humidity, and with our exertion pedaling. Sweat was dripping down our necks. But the withering heat was not the cause of  what I did next. 

As we tried to maneuver our way out and around the small pond, I found myself telling Mikayla, 

“Steer left.” 

“Go right.” 

“No, no, no, go straight.” 

“Turn, turn, turn.” 

“Don’t turn so much.” 

“The other way, the other way.” 

…you get the idea. 

In less than five minutes, what had been the excitement of a fun ride around the pond deflated into a dank, dreaded time of mom freaking out over nothing…an atmosphere of stress. I could see it in the girls’ eyes. Mikayla became nervous about the steering. The short 15-minute ride dragged on. Aliya tried to divert our attention to the ducks in the pond. But I had already killed the joy, and all three of us knew it.

After we got off the boat, Damon was cheerful and fun…and the girls soon forgot the dismal time on the pond and moved on. And thankfully, the rest of our day at the park was enjoyable.

But that night as I replayed in my mind my nagging on the pond, I could see so clearly how much I was trying to control everything in that boat. I couldn’t let go of the steering…I was unable to recognize that even if the steering was not right, it didn’t really matter. After all, we were on a paddle boat in a small pond…and it was supposed to be just for fun(!!!). It was like watching in slow motion of my pervasive desire for control at the expense of my poor girls. It was an exact picture of my unwillingness to relinquish control, and I saw how ridiculous my behavior was. Even as I write this, I am cringing.

It was a short moment. However, my mom-freaking-out-on-the-pond moment is actually an accurate window into my heart. Because the truth is, I live much of my life as if I’m on a paddle boat, barking directions in a vain effort to control everything in my life, from the minute to the overwhelming. I crave control, and when I feel that I’m not in control or can’t control, I grow anxious. And though I often realize there is nothing I can control in this life, I revert to my old patterns, clinging to a mirage of comfort and security.

Furthermore, deeper into my heart, is that fact that ultimately, I don’t trust God. I think I know better. I think my way is right. Pride. But in reality, he is the only one who controls all things, not only controlling but ruling and reigning supreme. Moreover, this Almighty God calls himself my good heavenly shepherd, who loves and cares for me. Therefore, I can release my desire for control and entrust everything to this good God, because all things are best under his control, not mine. His ways are always good and perfect and for our own good. This is truth.

I want to remember this truth and hold onto it as a buoy in the murky waters of my own insidious sinful desire for control. I want to remember this truth when I think I know better than God, when I struggle to be autonomous from God’s power, when I cleave to significance based on my own abilities. I need the reminder of this truth every moment of every day.

What is your paddle boat on the pond? What are you seeking to control in your life? How are you seeking comfort in the illusion of control? What gives you that illusion of comfort and security? May the Lord have mercy on all of us and help us by transforming our minds and hearts by his Holy Spirit to love and trust him more and more each day. Only by the grace of God.

Thanks for reading…ym 🙂

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