By CHRIS BATES
A frozen lake and a father’s love
It was a hard frozen January morning many years back. My brother was probably only 7 years old and I was 11. He and I were doing our best as young guys to endure freezing hands and faces on this Mississippi Delta duck hunt with our father. We had taken the only way in, by crossing a partially frozen lake by boat to get to our hunting spot before dawn, and had since then stood in waders in the flooded timber on the other side.
Now it was time to go. Dad first lifted my little brother into the boat, then instructed me to keep a hand on the bow rope to keep it from floating away while he turned to gather the rest of our gear. My small body had started shivering from the cold, and I was hardly paying attention to my task and took my hand off the rope.
Dad turned back to look and saw the boat with my little brother in it floating away on the icy lake, with only seconds before it would be totally out of reach. He looked at my brother, and without hesitation, he took quick steps on the underwater bank and launched himself for the boat.
His hand landed on the edge of the bow, but the rest of him submerged before he quickly pulled himself up into the boat. It was dangerously cold and the water all over him was quickly freezing. With some help, he was able to get us out safely.
What I remember most profoundly was that, when action was needed, he had jumped immediately and selflessly. It was a demonstration of how we can choose to act throughout our lives for others — with love shown through selfless action.
The love part is what leads the way. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We are shown by Jesus’s life and most profoundly by his sacrificial death that the greatest action imaginable is to give of our selves for others.
Those of us that are parents know that the love we feel for a child is unconditional and without limit. True mutual love with a spouse is equally fulfilling and rewarding. Siblings, friendships and relationships of all sorts can show us how love fills our hearts.
James Taylor says it so well: “There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around.” All of that said, love may be above all, but it has no impact without being put into action.
Love by itself can simply sit on a shelf. Love has its intended influence only when it is given or received, and for that to happen it has to shift from one to another, from person to person, God to us and us to Him in return. It can end feuds, mend hurt hearts and stop wars. It can lift spirits and give hope where there is none. It can bring a smile and change a life’s direction, but it must be transposed for any of these to happen.
1 John 3:18 says, “Dear brothers, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” With something so powerful, how can we each do that? The key to putting love into action is simply the giving of self. We have to care less about our own interests and ourselves and more about the one who is to receive our love — and then we have to take steps to give it to them.
A mentor said long ago that there are only two times that we should take action: 1) when we want to and 2) when we don’t want to. As we go through daily life, there are opportunities every moment to turn love into deeds. Do we make a degrading comment when we have the chance or do we say something positive? Do we help someone succeed before ourselves? Do we lash out at someone in anger or do we instead practice tolerance?
There are small chances each day to take action with those around us, and sometimes there are big choices or the need for a quick response, like the one that our father made on that frozen morning. The Great Commission calls each of us to carry out the ultimate love in action in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Go out today and love without hesitating.
Chris is president and founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.