A few days ago, I was out playing in the waves with my family, big swells that kept most other beach-goers away. Usually all manner of folks can be found at my beach, lounging and wading and a few actually swimming. On this day though, the weather people had warned of dangerous rip-currents and I would agree that if you’re not physically strong enough or experienced with Lake Michigan specifically, you should not tackle the waves. They can be killers. Without exaggeration. Mostly because people underestimate their power. But, where you swim in them is super important as well! In fact, a life was lost that day as a young girl swam too near a channel and got swept away by the currents there.
I underestimated, too once. Actually, both Christian and I forgot the strength and wildness that manifests itself in my beloved lake. Kyrsten was little, maybe 5?, and we ran out to the lake on a stormy night to play as a storm came in. Justin did fine. He was strong and had been a solid swimmer for his entire life. He took off and happily swam until the waves dragged him back to shore only to do it all over again.
Christian had Kyrsten with a noodle for floating help and the three of us took off happily out into the waves looking for the sandbar that had been there for weeks previously. The undertow has this way of separating you as you head out so we were quite a ways from each other. I was swim/walking with all my might until I could no longer touch bottom and then I was swimming hard to get out to that sandbar that I just KNEW was not much farther. The only problem is that the storm and waves had moved the sandbar. I wasn’t going to be able to get that far. But, as the waves began to overcome me and I started taking in water instead of air, my brain got that confusion that they say drowning folks get and I couldn’t think straight. I forgot to turn around and let the waves bring me back to safety. I just kept reaching for that stupid sandbar. And then all of a sudden, I knew. After spending my entire childhood in its waters, I knew my beloved lake was going to claim me. I couldn’t breathe and I was out of energy.
I looked for my family and waayyy far over I saw Christian trying desperately to keep his head above water enough to save little Kyrsten who was clinging to the pool noodle trying to breathe as well.
I caught his eye and just shook my head and screamed, “I CAN’T!” He looked at me and shook his head. He had given up as well.
The next thing I know, I am on the shore sputtering and coughing and practically kissing the sand with relief next to my husband who is doing the same thing with my little girl. I don’t know how I got there. Well, I do. It had to be miraculous because there is simply no way I could swim that far.
It scared me but good.
Honestly, it put real fear in me. Fear that was unfamiliar and that I did not welcome. I had never before been afraid of my lake. Had a healthy respect for it, yes. Afraid, no. Since then, I fight panic that rears up in the depths of me in moments that I don’t even see coming.
But, swimming!? I am now sometimes afraid while swimming way out deep. I can’t even believe that I say that. I have been a lifelong fish, and now, all of a sudden I will, for no reason, find myself terrified out in the water on occasion.
Like in that stupid kayak. I panicked. For no reason at all.
I hate that more than I have words to describe. I like to feel strong and usually I am unafraid.
This time, after a great swim (with no moments of panic) I sat on the shore and let the waves crash on me and I realized that it’s not the idea of death that scares me in the least. Not to sound morbid, but bring it. I simply cannot wait to meet my Jesus.
It’s the process of getting there that I don’t necessarily crave.
It’s always the process, right?
I wasn’t the least bit afraid to fly around the world to a little tiny continent adrift in the ocean on the other side of the world. It was the process I dreaded, and with good reason, I might add.
It’s not the living in a different home far from everything familiar that I’m scared of. It’s the process of moving and not knowing and ripping away from here that I don’t really long for.
I don’t mind being a little old lady someday, as long as I didn’t burn so many bridges along the way that no one wants to be around me anymore. It’s this whole process of aging that, well, it sucks.
BUT, you don’t get from newlywed to old, happily married couple without having survived some processes along the way.
You don’t get in shape with out the treacherous, miserable workouts along the way.
You don’t know how big God is until He’s held your hand through the dark.
It’s the journey that builds the muscles physically, emotionally or spiritually.
It’s in the living that you find your strength!
And darn it, I want the strength. I want to have learned enough along the path to prevent later pain. I want to have learned my lessons and pushed through the fear to a place of peace.
I heard there will be big waves today. I’m going swimming.