Today is my son’s 21st birthday. All day, I have been unsuccessfully attempting to express my gratefulness to the Lord for the joy Jesse has brought. During my intercession time this morning, no words came. During moments of reflection throughout the day, I have felt utterly inadequate for the task. Even now, I wonder how I say thank you for something so precious. It seems right to thank God, but how do I do that?

I feel like I am falling short in my desire to express my gratitude. However, I have enjoyed flash-back memories about his life. Some of the memories have come with a fresh understanding of life lessons. For example, I remember attempting to walk a log across a raging Colorado mountain stream filled with spring melt-off with 16 month-old Jesse on my back. To this day, the memory sends a chill down my spine and causes my heart to beat faster.

The life lesson goes like this: risk, balance, and grace.

As we walk the paths of life we encounter obstacles that must be negotiated. Often risk is involved. This was the situation that early summer day in 1992. The mountain path that we were hiking came to a place where the torrent that generally was a mountain stream had to be crossed. A tree about six inches in diameter had fallen across the stream, so it seemed reasonable to cross on that. However, the danger was clear. If I fell off the log into the stream with Jesse strapped on my back it would require a miracle for both of us to emerge from the swift and icy water unscathed.

As I stepped onto the tree, balance became my top priority. I tried to look only at the tree and not the movement below. I placed one foot at a time aiming for spots that looked most secure. To best negotiate the difficulties, twists, and turns in our lives we focus, we take advantage of every opportunity, and we work to stay balanced. We eat a balanced diet, we balance work and play, we exercise spiritual disciplines, we work out, etc. Generally these balancing activities serve us well, but they are not enough.

I made it more than half way across the stream before I awkwardly landed on a small branch and lost most of my balance. Within a split second, my controlled progress across the tree turned into a desperate, out of control, practically blind scramble toward solid ground. I managed to take a giant step that generally landed on the log, I pushed off with that hastily placed foot and jumped as far as I could, and landed in the shallow water near the edge of the stream. The final ten feet had nothing to do with my ability. It was totally by the grace of God that Jesse and I escaped the rushing, icy, torrent.

I believe many crises are gifts from God. He allows us to experience failure, sickness, relational stress, job losses, and other calamity to remind us that he is ultimately in control and to train us to depend on him. Often we are only aware of God’s grace when we lose our balance. It is in our weakness that his strength is made perfect. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Back to my dilemma about how to express my gratefulness to the Lord for Jesse, I guess I will use the words of the psalmist in Psalm 116:

12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.