I love the beach. That may be surprising considering the fact that I live in the mountains, 7500 feet above sea level, and about 1100 miles away from the nearest ocean, but it’s the truth. The first sailboat trip I remember was when I was three years old, and my happiest memories from my childhood and early adulthood took place either on the water or right next to it.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school I spent countless hours in a boat and on the sand. That (and a bottle of Sun-In) turned my brownish hair bright white, and I haven’t gone back since. (Well, except the accidental bright pink turned dark red episode that I don’t want to talk about. Really. That was not a good look for me.)
Anyway, when I was in college I took surfing for my PE class. I needed the credit, the class was for two hours every Friday afternoon, and I figured that there was no better way to end my school week. I bought the textbook (seriously), and I am pretty sure that was the only class during my entire college career for which I completed all of the assigned reading and never skipped a session.
Obviously most of the time was spent in the water, but we did have some lectures. The one I remember most distinctly was the lesson on rip-currents. We read about the currents, and then our teacher spent an entire class period describing how and why they occurred, illustrating them on the board, and then telling us exactly what we needed to do to avoid getting caught in them.
“You aren’t strong enough to swim against a rip current,” she said. “I’m not strong enough to swim against a rip current. If you get caught in one, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, and then let the waves help carry you back into land.”
I memorized her words. Every time I went to the beach (which was pretty much daily) I repeated her words in my head. I read and re-read the chapter about rip currents, and I knew that I knew what to do.
The next week we met down at the beach, and for a warm-up she had us swim out into the ocean, past the breakers, and then come back. On my way back I was struggling. I kept trying to swim, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was getting tired, and frustrated, and I felt like I needed help. But I wasn’t going to ask for it. I was surrounded by surfers, and I didn’t want them to laugh at me. I didn’t want my classmates to know I was struggling, and I was sure everyone would think I was a fool.
In the back of my mind I thought maybe I was caught in a rip current, and then I panicked. I started swimming as hard as could, but I knew that I had hardly any strength left. The next thing I knew my professor was in the water next to me. She took me and pushed me as hard as she could, parallel to the shore. She yelled at me to keep swimming parallel, and she swam alongside of me. After a short ways she turned me toward the sand and gave me another push. The waves helped carry me in, and when I got out of the water she looked at me and simply said, “Now you know.”
She was looking out for me.
I thought I knew what I was doing, and I thought that was prepared, but she still had my back. And when I got caught and stuck and forgot everything that I had learned, she came along and gave me a not so gentle nudge in the right direction, and she saved my life.
We are created to be in community. It was not good for Adam to be alone, and so God created Eve. It is not good for us to be alone, and my experience that day on Ocean Beach demonstrates why.
There are times that we get in over our head. We think we know what we are doing, we think we have it covered, but circumstances overwhelm us, and we get into trouble. Being in community means that when this happens, someone can come in and give you the nudge, be it gentle or not so gentle, that you need to get where you need to be.
I have to admit that I am not so good at this whole thing. Just like that day in the water, I still am unwilling to ask for help, even when I know I need it. I am more than willing to be the person to come along and nudge others, but I really don’t like being the one nudged. Thankfully I have a couple of people in my life who will nudge me even when I don’t want them to, people who are as strong-willed and stubborn as I am!
But I know I need to work on that. I know that I need to check my pride and ask for help when I need it. I know that I need to get over my social interaction issues. And I’m working on it.
See you soon.