Some years ago, on a warm spring day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house.
In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the young boy.
The boys father, working in the yard, saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear and panic, the father ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could.
Hearing his father's voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late, however. Just as the boy reached his father, the alligator reached him.
From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched at his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go.
A farmer happened to drive by, heard the screams from the swimming hole, pulled out his hunting rifle, raced from his truck toward the pond, took aim and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father's fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.
The newspaper reporter, who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if the boy would show the scars on his legs. The boy showed the reporter his scared feet and ankles. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have these scars because my dad wouldn't let go."
You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. Not from an alligator, but scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But, some wounds are because God has refused to let go of us. In the midst of our struggle, God has been there holding on to us.
We believe that God loves us. We believe we are children of God. God wants to provide for us in every way. Sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril -- and we forget that life's dangers are waiting to attack. That's when the tug-of-war begins.
If you have the scars of God's love on your arms, be very, very grateful, God did not and will not ever let you go. During these days of Easter, resurrection living reminds us of how much God loved humankind and how God still loves.
Jerre W. Nolte is pastor of First United Methodist Church, Hays.