Have you ever heard your mother say, “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” It sounds ridiculous. Everyone knows the answer to that is no. It’s always no! Except when it isn’t.
When I was in college in the breathtaking state of Hawaii, all my friends jumped off a cliff and asked me to jump too! So I did. I jumped at least 30 feet, maybe more, into the ocean. Having grown up in Wyoming, a landlocked state, I had no experience with the ocean and its power. So not only had I jumped off a cliff just because all my friends did, I also jumped into a vast body of water in which I was not at the top of the food chain…and sharks were the least of my problems.
As happens in every good story, I soon met with trouble. Waves began coming in hard and fast and breaking on the shore. I saw a particularly huge swell coming. In that moment I began to fully comprehend how ill equipped I was to handle the situation. “Out of my depth” suddenly had a very literal meaning for me.
This wave began breaking further from the shore than the others because it was so huge. As it swept over me, it pulled me under and began tossing me about. I fought it. With all my strength I tried to fight my way upward, or at least what I thought might be up, until it slammed me onto the beach. Foolishly I thought my ordeal was over, but it had only just begun. I struggled to get to my knees, but the ocean pulled me back out. I had nothing but sand to hold on to, so the sand came with me, clenched in my fists. Again and again and again, I was jerked under the water. Again and again and again, I fought it. Each time it threw me on the shore, I clawed at the shifting sand, and I gasped for air. Salt water and sand filled my nose and mouth, but still I gulped for that precious oxygen. I would get just enough before that beastly sea took me back for another beating. I was dying. I was literally dying. I was barely able to clutch for the sand at the end. When it pulled me back again, all I wanted was the safety of my mother’s arms. I couldn’t fight anymore.
And then a miracle. I do not say that lightly, for it truly was a miracle. I was smashed on the beach one last time looking, I’m sure, like a broken and ruined rag doll. Immediately I felt a hand close around my wrist and pull…HARD. Off the beach and into the air I flew, landing out of the reach of my formidable adversary. I opened my eyes, eager to see my savior, but no one was there.
I sat on the beach with sand filling every crack and crevice of my body and my bathing suit, and I just breathed. I was alive. I soaked up the sunshine and resolved to never allow myself to be talked into something foolish and dangerous again. My life was precious to me. I had learned that. I wouldn’t waste it.
For years, I thought that was the lesson I was meant to learn.
Now I know there was more. There have been times in my life when I find myself unknowingly back in that ocean, drowning in a sea that I don’t fully comprehend, with no idea how I ended up there. All I know is that I am once again facing an enemy whose power surpasses my own.
I fight and struggle to get my head above the water that threatens to take the life from me. All the while it is pulling me down and tossing me about so I cannot find which way is up. Then it briefly spits me back up on shore, taunting me with dry land. Always I breathe, hoping this will be the last time, but knowing that it isn’t. Then back to the deep I go to be the play thing of a fearsome predator.
Again and again and again it tugs at me. Again and again and again I fight. I cannot give in to this enemy. I am hopelessly outmatched, but I must survive. I know, now, that despair will crush me faster than this ocean of nothingness will.
So I fight my adversary. I attack the nothingness that threatens to swallow me with laughter. I smile when the gloom begins to crush the air from my lungs. When anxiety chases me down, I run faster. I fight. And every time my bruised and weary soul is thrown to shore, I breathe in the sunlight and hold it deep in my heart, knowing it will keep me alive just that much longer.
While engaged in this completely inequitable fight, I remind myself over and over of the real lesson I learned all those years ago. Help will come. Help will always come. If I hold on, help will come.
John 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
***I wrote this for myself years ago. Recently, however, I realized that others might find this useful. I have read this countless times to myself so I remember to hold on in my most difficult moments. I think it doesn’t matter what the struggle is. It could be job loss, divorce, depression, death of a loved one, and countless others. I have needed this reminder in many situations over the years. I hope it helps you too.***
Take It, and Be Thankful
This song speaks to me, and I felt like I needed to share it here with this. The lines “I will take you there, but you can’t let go, cause it’s a long way home…Light up the darkness, take what you’re given, sometimes it’s frightening, but it’s amazing. Here for a moment. We’re only human.” I hope you love it and hear the love and hope in this song.