One day my family and I were walking with friends in a wooded park when our two-year-old daughter fell into a stream. My husband jumped in to pull her out. In a nutshell, that’s the story. But here’s what really happened.

It was a gorgeous, fragrant spring Saturday—the kind of day on which it’s a crime to stay indoors. The only thing on our calendar was to take a hike in a wooded park with friends.

At that time our kids were 2 and 5, so we rounded up their sneakers and sweatshirts, the bug spray, some snacks, and a few juice boxes. We were ready.

We met our friends at the park, entered the woods, and hiked slowly along, watching for trillium, spring beauty, and cowslip. We stopped every now and then to prod a toad or pick up a rock or point out a tree. It was peaceful. And lovely. And short-lived.

As we followed the path, we came to a large stream spanned by a rickety, waist-high wooden bridge. We stopped halfway across the bridge to play Pooh-sticks. For the uninitiated, the game involves dropping a twig off the upstream side of a bridge and running to the downstream side to watch it emerge.

When most of us were on the downstream side looking for a twig, we heard a loud splash. The sound was too loud to be a rock thrown in by one of the kids. It took a few seconds to realize what it was.

Our 2-year-old, Abby, was no longer on the bridge. She was in the water.

Her arms and legs were moving, but she didn’t know how to swim. Her eyes were open, but she couldn’t see. She was face down, and because the water was flowing rather swiftly, she couldn’t get up on her own. 

We saw all this in slow motion. I froze, but in a flash my husband leaped off the bridge into the water, heedless of the rocks on the riverbed He scooped Abby up and lifted her from the water, shocked and dripping.

We wrapped Abby in a dry sweatshirt and calmed her when she caught her breath and started to cry.

Abby clung to her dad for a while. Her brother, David, patted her back to comfort her while we carried her down the trail to the car. But when she stopped crying, Abby lifted her still-dripping head and testified with a mixture of solemnity and awe and relief: “Daddy saved me!”

Those three words have stuck with me. They’re an expression of the kind of faith I would like to have. A childlike faith—a simple, trusting, grateful faith. The kind of faith that acknowledges that the act of salvation is completely and utterly an act of God.

In the Christian community there are endless questions and debates and opinions on topics of importance. There are many different interpretations of doctrinal and philosophical matters. But there is one simple truth that knits us together and compels us to reach out to others.

Our Daddy—Abba—saved us.

About the Author

Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.