It was such a beautiful, warm, sunny day down in southern California. I was 12 years old and fearless. My family was spending the day at Huntington Beach and everything was right in our world.
Mom and my sister Jenny were content to soak in the rays on the beach. My dad, my sister Michelle and I were ready for adventure. We darted out to the ocean for some serious body surfing. The waves were amazing and we had plans to take full advantage of them.
Well, Michelle, Dad and I had a surprise coming our way. We body surfed for hours. I’m pretty sure it was Dad who suggested that we head back to shore. We could kind of remember where Jenny and Mom were, so we started to swim back in that direction. To be quite honest with you, the rest of the day is a little bit of a blur to me.
I remember being very tired. I remember how strong the waves were and I clearly remember bobbing up and down in the water, trying to get a breath. I can still see the blurry brownish water when I think about that day. I can still taste the salt and feel my dad’s arm trying to hold me up as he swam.
My sister and dad were exhausted. At one point, my dad was afraid I was drowning. He tried to see how deep the water was and realized that he could not touch the bottom. He began to panic. He told us to swim harder. In that moment, seeing Dad panic, Michelle called out with all of her strength, “JESUS! Help us!”
Instantly there were 2 lifeguards at our side. Instantly. I remember the red floaty thing that I held onto as they dragged us back to shore. I remember being on the sand very, very far away from where Jenny and my mom were waiting. I will also never forget their word of instruction to us: “If you ever get drug out by a strong undercurrent again, just relax. Allow yourself to float and eventually the ocean will carry you back to shore. It may be much farther down the beach than you started out, but as long as you try to fight the current, you will get nowhere but exhausted.”
Somehow that story is quite an object lesson for me about life and plans. I can think of several times in my life where I stood on the shore and had my own great plans all mapped out. I looked into the distance and thought I knew exactly how things would pan out, only to find myself flailing and trying to catch my breath. There have been times when things have seemed utterly out of control. Times when I had no idea if I’d even make it. There have been other times that may not have seemed quite so bleak, but definitely not the way I had planned them.
I am going to try really hard to hold onto the words of those wise lifeguards and apply a spiritual twist to it. God has a plan for our lives. We can go along for the ride, knowing that it will be an exciting adventure and TRUST HIM to get us safely to the “shore” He has destined for us…..or we can try to fight him all of the way, arguing that it’s too hard for us or that this isn’t the “right” way. If we do that, we can count on the fact that we will get nowhere but exhausted!
I’m really hoping that I can remember this in the midst of the waves of life…not just after a rough set. Our God is so loving and trustworthy….I can’t wait to see what part of the shore he has planned for me to land on.