Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Treasure Hunting: When You Can't Touch Bottom

During the first precious days of vacation I could stand on the beach and the waves would roll in gentle and easy. After the storm the surf was choppy and a little rough. Most likely it was tame to experienced swimmers, surfers and ocean dwellers, but I was more than a little daunted.
The ocean’s power was evident—pulling and pushing. Sucking under. Caution raised his hand. And I paid attention.


Steve and Dave stood out on the second sand bar playing in the waves. From the distance you could see their shoulders lift in hard laughter. They laughed as the high waves would crest and then smack against the walls of their backs.
Abby wanted to join them, so I took off with her. Little did I know.
Now, first we must establish that my 6’3” husband stood on the second sandbar and was still only a little over waist high. I’m 5’5”. He tops me by ten inches. This will come into play later.

I took this photo with a zoom from my place on the shore.
The day before, when the water was calm, I joined him. I didn’t have to work very hard to get there. He and I played and floated and jumped and laughed. There I stood on the sandbar and I marveled at how brave I was.  
But that bravery shouldn’t have morphed into over-confident bravado.
I began to swim toward the sandbar. I struck out thinking I would make it just fine. Hadn’t I done so yesterday?
After several minutes I realized my progression was slow. I stopped and treaded water and really took bearing of where I was relative to Steve and where our belongings were on the beach. I was way off target. Completely. And I was fighting against the current. A niggle of fear started to tickle in my throat. Just a niggle. I could still swallow past it. Heck, I was laughing.

Then I realized my feet did not touch the bottom at all. When my toes finally made contact with the ocean floor then no one could see my head above water any more—not even the wisps of my hair floating. Six inches over my head might as well have been a foot.
Obviously doggy paddling and lazy backstroking were not working.
Frolicking play ceased. The rhythm of the waves that usually soothed now pounded. The endless persistence of the rising and the rolling of water no longer calmed me.
With each wave I frantically stretched out my toes trying to push off and get my head above the swell. It didn’t work. It pounded me and my head went halfway under every single time.
Of course I was laughing and inhaled two quarts of sea water. It seems sometimes there are only two things I do: laugh or cry. You take your pick. And often, for whatever reason, I choose to do the wrong one at the wrong time.
There you have it. This wasn’t a time to laugh. I kept fighting. Just as I would come up from being hit by one wave another one would roll over and push me back under. The force of that water was sobering to say the least.
Finally, I got Steve’s attention and waved at him. He waved back.
He waved back.
Are you kidding me?
He didn’t understand and wasn’t yet aware I was struggling and needed help.
I kept going under and surfacing.
Panic rose in my throat. And niggling fear swelled into a huge lump of scared.
Steve did not have his glasses on and because I was so far away he did not see my predicament. Somehow Dave realized I wasn’t just waving. He asked Steve if he thought I needed some help.
Dave’s observation caused Steve’s focus to change. He watched me and realized my struggle was a little much.
You think?
He turned and moved toward me. When I realized he was coming I stopped struggling and just treaded water. I quit trying to work against the current. And I waited in this holding pattern in the water.
With his long strides he crossed the space between us quickly. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do the same. Then I remembered I couldn’t touch the bottom. (Ten inches can make a huge difference.)
He reached me and stretched out his hand. I stretched out mine, the distance was still too great. He kept coming forward until my hand was in his. Then he pulled me toward him, slicing through the water. He picked me up in his arms, and I wrapped myself around him.   He carried me easily to the second sand bar.
And I let him carry me. I was too tired to do otherwise. My attempts to get rid of the salt water from my eyes and nose and ears came in spurts and coughs. And I was laughing because I was no longer afraid.
But I was whipped.
There are times when we simply are not going to be able to touch bottom. Six inches will seem like two feet. The sandbar will seem a mile away. The current will be relentlessly strong. The roll of the waves will pound you. Push you under. You will swallow a gallon of salt water.  Fear will niggle. And you will panic.
I know people right now who can’t touch the bottom.
So do you.
Maybe you’re one of them.
There are swimmers in this vast ocean who are fighting the current, trying to rise up and over the crest of the endless waves. They are failing. When they inhale they can’t get enough air. They are clawing with their feet trying to find a foothold and there is not one to be found.

They are waving at us. Arms flailing to get our attention and we think they are just greeting us. And we wave back. Smiling our, the sun’s-in-our-eyes, automatic smiles.
They are growing weary from treading water. Cramps are knotting the muscles in their calves. And their arms are growing week. And they really can’t shout because every time they open their mouth wide enough it gets filled with salt water. The fear in their throat is beginning to suffocate them. And the panic swells.
Perhaps I am describing the state of your life right now. Maybe you have been treading water for a long, long time. You have shouted, but no one seems to hear you. And maybe they heard you and just simply waved back.
Whatever, you just can’t touch the bottom.
Shout one more time, I’m telling you.
Shout and ask God to send someone. Ask him to send someone to carry you to the sandbar.
Don’t fight them when they come. Don’t try to be strong and brave and say, no, surely I can do this.
No, there are times your feet are just not going to touch bottom. And you are going to need help.

Father, thank you for seeing our predicament and coming for us. You saw our struggle to touch bottom and our futile attempts to keep our heads above water. You saw us drowning. And you came for us. Please help us to do the same for your people. When we are on the sandbar please help us to look around and watch. Help us to notice people who are waving. Give us wisdom and insight to assess whether it is a greeting or a cry for help. Help us to pay attention. Give us the strength and power to go to them. Hold their hands. Pull them forward and swim with them or carry them to the sandbar. Amen and amen.
(Right now if you feel like you can't touch bottom, and you need prayer, please send me a note. Send me a private message. I will pray for you. Perhaps, I can't get to you where you are, but I can pray for God to send you someone who can.









1 comment:

Schell Sadski said...

Tamera, this post was just beautiful. We've all been there, I feel I can safely say. I've smiled through the flailing moments, scared of what someone may think of me, when I should have cried out. As a believer in Christ, I would hope that someone could call out to me and not be frightened of my response. We need each other, we've been given each other as a gift! Thank you for this post...much food for thought!

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