In the early 1970s when my husband was finishing up his undergrad degree at Hampton University, then, Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, we would often go to the Naval Air Station at Dam Neck. This small naval installation located near Virginia Beach, Virginia had the most beautiful beach and we would slip away from the studies and take the kids and make a day of it. I love the water, but never really learned to swim proficiently. Most of my experience was at the shallow end of the local public swimming pool, so my familiarity with the ocean was non existent.
I had just purchased this cute little black and white swimsuit with a jazzy red belt attached. It really didn’t have straps, just two little holes on the sides, which when I slipped my arms into them… voila, it became a backless swimsuit. So cute! My idea of a fun day at the beach was to sit serenely in my cute little swimsuit and watch the antics of my kids and husband, and dole out the goodies.
My husband, this particular day was not content to let me be an observer, and coaxed me into the water. He promised we would not go further than knee deep and if I would just follow his instructions I would be just fine. He very carefully explained that when a wave comes in, just jump a bit and avoid the impact of the wave. Sounded easy enough, and we were only going to be knee deep. It should be simple enough, and, if by chance a wave should catch me off guard, I would only be in knee deep water, so I should have no problem regaining my footing. Right? And he was there to keep me from all harm!
Well, we started out into the water, wave… jump… See, no problem. Wave, jump, wave, jump higher! WAVE! The next thing I knew I was in and under the water, with waves coming at me like a baseball batting range. I was struggling for all I was worth to get up, but every time I tried to gain my footing another wave would knock me down. I was thrashing around like a beached fish, when I realized my husband was not helping me to stand up, he was trying to keep my cute little swimsuit on my body! Wave! Hey! Can you give me a hand here? I’m drowning! His concern for my nakedness should not have been the primary focus at that moment…keeping me from drowning was! I am sure it was a funny sight and I laughed with everyone else when it was finally over and we were safely on the beach.
Even though the water was really less than knee deep, my inexperience with the ocean, the waves and how to flow with it left me vulnerable to drowning, even in, perhaps, ankle deep water. I just could not gain my footing before I was slammed again by another wave. Help! I truly have fallen and I can’t get up!
My husband and I were talking about this recently, and as He usually does, Father God used the incident as a teaching moment. I have been doing some volunteer work at one of the ministries that serve people who find themselves in challenging life situations. Some are homeless; some have addiction problems, and some may be escaping from abusive environments. The one thing I have learned in the six or so months I have been serving is that I don’t know anything about the desperation of their conditions! My life experiences are so far removed from what some of these people are facing, I often find my perception skewed.
We can become overly focused on what is “proper”; more concerned with how something looks to others, rather than recognizing the life threatening state a person may be in. My focus should be how I can be a source to finding true resolutions for the problem. A simplistic approach, as I might see it, may not be adequate for the situation at hand. I was quick to share God’s word, but sometimes we need to offer more than a scripture, with a promise to pray for the need. (James 2:14-18) Not to say that prayer is unnecessary, because it is essential, however, in addition to the spiritual, we need to be willing to supply the practical as well. This is not to say just throw some money at the problem…same as my husband trying to keep my swimsuit on me.
As in the situation with me in the ocean and my husband’s response, each of us had a different perspective; I thought I was drowning and that I would die, while he could see that I was not drowning, but very close to being stripped naked before the eyes of everyone around. His actions were two fold; to protect my modesty, but also avoid embarrassment if his coworkers saw my nakedness. My response, given what I was experiencing, was I am dying here and he doesn’t see it, nor is he doing what I thought was necessary to save me. If I had been able to calm down, I could have just stood up! I did not realize the power I had to save myself. I had to see that I could do something about my situation, but because of the onslaught of the waves and with no other perspective, I could not get myself out of the situation alone.
This illustration challenges me tremendously! It challenges me to see a broader picture, and to view it from more than one aspect. How can I help the person in crisis to see truth? What are my motives, what are my limitations, how can I be of assistance? All necessary to be able to provide a successful rescue. How can I help that person see what I see? What do I see? Am I seeing truth? My truth or thier truth? What a powerful analogy and what an amazing opportunity to be a co-laborer with Christ!
I think it is important to be willing to be a part of the solution, if it is in your power to do so, or to assist in helping to find the one who is able to rescue. According to James, this is faith. He, James, said your actions are an indication of your faith. It is when we step out to be a part of the solution that God has an opportunity to be made manifest through us. We are his workers here on earth and may be the only “Jesus” someone in need has ever seen. Each time we allow Him to walk into a persons life through our obedience, we leave God’s footprint in the earth.