Thursday, October 18, 2012
I unfortunately have never learned how to swim, and that deficit in my abilities was never more clear than the day I almost drowned. I was 15 and it was Memorial Day weekend and I was at the beach with my church youth group.
If you’ve ever swam, or in my case, walked, in the ocean you know it is a very different experience than being in a pool. The bottom shifts and is uneven, undercurrents and waves crash into your body and the motion of the water can be somewhat disorienting, making it difficult to judge distance… disrupting your equilibrium.
That day at the beach I attempted to brave the waters, which seemed tranquil enough at the time and venture out in the waves to meet a group of my friends who seemed to be having a good time in the ocean. The water on them only seemed to be as high as their waists and they seemed to have no problem dealing with the waves. “How hard could it be?” I thought.
As I took my first steps, it became apparent that this journey was not going to be as easy as I thought. The shifting sand beneath my feet seemed to disappear and I found myself sinking if I stayed in one place too long. With each step, I seemed to sink deeper and deeper and water was already at my waist and I hadn’t even completed half of the journey. As I stood wondering why I was so deep in water and I hadn’t gone half the distance my friends had, I decided to take one more step, and if that didn’t work, I would turn and go back to shore.
Suddenly my head was under water and I couldn’t feel the bottom. I was thrashing around frantically, trying to remember everything I had heard about swimming… just trying to keep my head above water and somehow, in all that panic, I managed to flail over to barnacle encrusted rock. It was slimy and smelled of old fish and the barnacles cut my fingertips, but I clung to that rock for dear life, because that rock was the only thing keeping my head above water.
Eventually, I was able to call out to one of my friends enjoying the waves in the distance and she came and somehow got me safely to shore.
As I look back and think about that day and how my friend and I sat on the beach in stunned silence… both of us too afraid to speak out loud about the tragedy that almost took place, I think of that rock, how steadfast and true it was… barnacles and all… in my moment of need.
Psalms 61:2 says, “from the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” That day, my Rock was covered in jagged crustaceans and smelled bad… not the best of conditions… and as with most things in life of value, it wasn’t easy to hang on to. You have to be willing to get past the circumstances that surround the Rock.
When Paul and Silas were in prison, it was their knowledge of Christ as Savior that was their Rock, but it was also the reason they were in prison… and yet they hung on. The Rock that John the Evangelist hung on to… that gave us the book of Revelation and the Gospel of John… also got him imprisoned on the isle of Patmos and boiled alive in oil (although he didn't die)… and yet he continued to hang on. The Rock that Joan of Arc hung on to, the fact that she heard from God… eventually got her burned at the stake, by the Catholic Church no less… the church she loved and had helped.
My experience with hanging on to that barnacle encrusted… slimy… smelly rock wasn’t nearly as challenging or as dramatic as John or Paul or Joan of Arc, but it was just as important. If I hadn’t, I might not be here today. If I hadn’t, I might not have learned an important lesson that has enabled me to hang on in more recent and more spiritually trying times. Hanging on to the Rock is never easy, but it is always… ALWAYS… worth it.