One of the perks of living in south Florida is getting to go to the beach and celebrating Christmas in the same week. While my kids were off from school, we met up with some other families at Siesta Beach, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
On the day we were there, though, the beauty was altered by a strong rip current. The waves certainly looked quicker and higher than we usually encountered. We gathered at the yellow life guard stand, where the red flag was flying. Red means “high hazard: high surf and/or strong currents”. We had only seen yellow (moderate surf/currents) or green (calm conditions) flags on previous beach trips. Beachgoers are allowed to swim when there’s a red flag, but should proceed with caution and only go in if they are strong swimmers.
I knew that my 6-year old and I wouldn’t go in above our knees, and that was fine by her. My 10-year old and his friends, though, wanted to play in the waves. The other moms and I agreed on a few safety points we wanted our boys to hear: make sure your feet can always touch the ground. Stay together. Make sure you stay aligned with the yellow lifeguard stand. If you feel yourself being pulled away by the current, don’t panic, but swim parallel to the shore. If you feel unsure or even afraid, like the current is getting too strong, come back in towards the beach!
The boys did great, and I didn’t think a lot more about our experience until today. Part of my notes from this week’s message at church starting coming to life in a new way. Our guest speaker on Sunday spoke about the spiritual importance of having the right reference point. He used this verse to help explain: “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1, NIV) Just as we as parents had warned our children to be alert and careful so they wouldn’t drift away in the Gulf, God warns His children to be alert and careful so we don’t drift away in the world!
Here is how the physical and spiritual connected in my mind as I mulled things over:
- Keep your feet on the ground; be able to touch bottom. Just as this is good advice in strong waters, so it is in life–know where you are, know where you stand. Are you firmly rooted? Do you feel steady and prepared for the next wave? When my 6-year old turned her back from the incoming waves, she was more likely to get knocked over by one, than if she was standing tall and facing them. In fact, when she watched the waves coming in, she could time it just right so she could jump right into or over one!
- Stay together. When the boys stayed in close proximity to one another, they were safer and they enjoyed themselves more. In our journey through life, don’t we all need somebody or two to yell “heads up!”, somebody to share laughs and triumphs, somebody with whom to face the waves? Are your companions strong and trustworthy? Could one of them block a wave that’s coming in strong, or help you get back to shore if you’re feeling weak and tired?
- Keep aligning yourself with the lifeguard stand. Sometimes the boys got distracted by the fun they were having, or knocked off position a bit by the waves. As I watched them, I saw them find the lifeguard stand and re-align themselves. In our world, we get off track sometimes, and nothing seems to work well or make sense until we re-align with our Guardian of Life. We keep Him in sight by doing things like praying and reading what He wrote for us in the Bible.
- If you feel yourself drifting, don’t panic, but swim parallel the shore. If any of the boys had fallen victim to the rip current and started drifting down shore, would it have made any sense for him to just stop swimming and say “oh well”? Of course not–and that method would probably lead to drowning! When we look around at our lives and see that we aren’t where we want to be or where we should be, we can’t be paralyzed with fear. Find that reference point and keep heading toward it. It will take time and extra effort, but you can make it back to that safe place if you keep heading in the right direction. Just as there were lifeguards ready to jump into the water to rescue someone who was struggling, so God is ready to rescue us when we can’t make it back on our own. He is our strong tower, our refuge, and our Rescuer.
I had to write all of this down while it was fresh in my mind. I love when I see spiritual truths and teachings brought to life life this. God teaches us in a multitude of ways if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. May your feet be firmly planted and your eyes fixed, that your heart may be rightly aligned!