Currently I am blessed to be sitting atop an amazing resort building in the penthouse suite, on the 16th floor, overlooking the amazing and brilliant, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We got such a deal on this vacation rental and I am so happy to be in my element– the salty air is calming my soul. The breeze is blowing, the sun is shining, and life feels great!
Down at the beach there are red and purple flags bustling in the wind atop silver painted flagpoles. These portend the dangers that are nearby in the ocean: extreme current concerns, namely the riptide. A riptide is defined as “a strong current caused by tidal flow in confined areas such as inlets and presenting a hazard to swimmers and boaters” (as defined by Siri, my Apple iPhone assistant).
As I am sitting writing this, several friends have texted concerns about family members or friends that are ill with cancer and facing an unknown and stressful future. My own mother just learned last week that her kidney cancer is back and she will likely lose the entire kidney this time. So many times in life we are faced with this dangerous riptide of life events. More concerning than the ocean current that can knock you down and turn you over and over are these life events that cause a riptide of current in our hearts.
How do we conquer this fear and tumultuous undertow? It occurs to me that both in life and in the water, we must learn to swim with the current and not fight against it in order to be successful with living. We learn in Zechariah 10:11-12, “And they will pass through the sea of distress and He will strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up…And I will strengthen them in the LORD, and they shall walk up and down in His name, says the Lord.”
For our honeymoon in 2005, we went on a cruise. One of the ports we stopped in was Cancun, Mexico. It just so happened that my brother’s family and my parents were vacationing there at the same time so we met them at the beach that day. Two things happened that day that I will never forget.
After about an hour on the beach, my new husband approached me dripping wet with ocean water. He held up his left hand, where his brand new wedding ring was supposed to be. He told me his ring fell off in the water and he grabbed it with his toes, but then got pushed around by a huge wave and lost it. Calmly, I rolled with that punch and said, ok, we can replace it.” Not a huge deal, I guess. A ring is worth way less than a life, right?
Not 30 minutes later, I hear a loud commotion and stand up from my beach lounger to see my 6’8′ brother heaving and throwing my husband towards the shore. Right away, my husband’s head goes back under the water and disappears. My brother grabs him again and hoists him towards land. The closer they got it seemed the riptide was pulling him out even faster. At the same time, I look to my left and see two Mexican lifeguards running in their direction, carrying red life boards and blowing their emergency whistles as they race to the scene of my drowning husband.
My own heart was caught in my throat and I felt paralyzed to move. Real fear was keeping me rooted in my spot in the sand. What could I do to help? I realized in that moment I was completely useless. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5). It was the only thing I could do, so I started praying on the spot.
The two life guards “book-ended” my husband, propped him up with their red floats and pulled him back to shore. Their advice upon rescuing my husband, if we were ever caught in the riptide again, was to keep our eyes on the shore, but swim with the current even though it won’t be a straight line into shore.
Sometimes life is that way. We think we need to go straight on to tackle an obstacle, but really what we should do is look for angles and waves to ride upon. Keep the faith that the shoreline is in sight, but ride the tide until we get where God needs us to be. So many times I am reminded that I must decrease so God can increase in my life. Perhaps if we find ourselves stuck in the riptide of life, we need to remember that God will cast his net upon us.
“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will send many people to catch you in my net and haul you out of the water” Ezekiel 32:3.