the fear of nothing ...

"God's spirit doesn't make cowards of us. The Spirit gives us power, love and self-control."
(2 Timothy 1:7)

It was so stunningly swift, it took all of 30 seconds.

When I lowered my daughter from the safety of my arms to the cold sand, she first gripped tightly to my arms -- they pinched, those little, stubby fingers.

Then, after watching the salt water lap harmlessly at her ankles for mere moments, she raised her eyes to meet mine, flashed her five teeth and ran ... right toward a surf swelled by a storm offshore.

I'm 6-2, she's just a little over 2-6 -- and I could barely keep up. Heck, even taking a nice-sized wave to her face when I wasn't watching closely enough only stopped her briefly ... and then only so that she could properly lick the salt water off her face. She thought that was a hoot.

At first I chalked it up to ber robust personality -- she's been known to climb the stairs in our house if you turn away long enough, and a few weeks ago she gladly accepted my uncle's pet rat onto her shoulders just days after playing with a rather slimy salamander. Maybe that's the case. She is quite brave.

But here's another possible explanation: maybe her bravado was really a lack of perspective.

After all, she only sees what's in front of her. One wave at a time, as it were -- not the fact that they keep coming with what can be a relentless cruelty if you don't have the requisite humility for nature. Indeed, she sees a small patch of water, not a seemingly endless ocean whose bosom has within it all the scary denizens of the deep, to say nothing of rip currents and high tides. She's never seen "Jaws," after all.

Yes, it's her innocence that kept her fear at bay. Quite simply, she doesn't know to be afraid.

I heard a preacher recently give a sermon, some of which touched on the theme of innocence. He played the song "The End of the Innocence," by Don Henley (great, great tune, yes?) and asked, among other questions, "Do you remember when you didn't know what a hospital smelled like?" "Remember when you'd never had a broken heart?"

I know what a hospital smells like. My wife's grandfather just passed away on Sunday after battling complications from a heart attack for several weeks. Unfortunately, that isn't the first time I've been to a bedside vigil for a sick loved one. And it's not the first time my wife's heart has been broken.

It sounds simplistic and trite, but life is cruel in the way it works sometimes. When we're born, we're pretty much a blank slate -- what Locke called tabula rosa -- left to be filled with experiences. And each of those experiences, even the good ones, chips away at our innocence.

How I'd love to have the innocence of a child once again.

It's the same way when you accept Christ -- or, as Jesus put it, when you are "born again." But that second birth comes with a twist: instead of each experience robbing you of innocence, each experience of growing in Christ builds toward a new, perfect innocence. Yes, those memories are still there -- I'll never forget watching my beloved Granny pass from this life into the next -- but Christ's redemptive power through his sacrifice at Calvary restores to me that which sin has robbed.

Then, the most amazing thing happens. At that moment of death, innocence is perfectly restored when, very literally, we combine our spiritual renewal here on earht with our physical one in heaven. We are made completely new when we come into the actual presence of God.

So, just as our experiences chip away at that pristine slate of innocence -- that which allows my daughter to boldly run toward a wave I understand in my less-than-innocent mind is dangerous -- our rebirth and growth in Christ builds toward that day when we finally meet Him face to face, and our innocence is made whole again.

And, when I rise to meet my Savior in the morning of eternity, I'll take a quick little detour afterwards -- to run headlong into an ocean that will hold no fear.

(copyright 2006, andrew j. beckner)

Want to know how to get your innocence renewed through Christ? Click on this link, read Romans 10:9,10 in the Bible and/or send me an e-mail.