Last week, after 8 months of planning, my husband and I arrived in Hawaii for our first big vacation since our honeymoon. I was delighted at the prospect of sitting on the beach reading a book on my Kindle. Getting in the ocean? Absolutely not.
You see, the ocean is on my list of the most horrifying things on the planet. I don’t have a particular order, but it’s quite possibly number 1. Of course, underground tunnels….are pretty horrifying. I’m sorry, I can’t breathe right now because I’m thinking about….tunnels. Okay, no more of that.
Let’s just talk about the ocean. The ocean is terrifying because:
- It’s huge. The human brain can’t really fathom the hugeness of such an immense body of water. All land is just a series of islands floating on this enormous expanse of ocean.
- It’s full of creatures. Creatures we don’t even know exist. Do you think you know what’s down there? So did all the scientists who said for over 100 years that giant squids don’t exist. NOBODY knows what’s down there.
- I can’t actually swim. I can paddle around enough to survive a pool, but even lakes are tricky. If I can’t touch the bottom, I tend to freak out and hyperventilate, then go into full-blown panic attack mode. This makes it difficult to paddle about.
- I’m blind. Technically, this isn’t the ocean’s fault, but in order to get in and swim, I have to take my glasses off. When that happens, I can’t see.
I made a few cracks before we left about Scott tying a rope around my waist as a means of dipping me into the ocean and pulling me back out when needed, but it actually seemed like a pretty sound idea. What if the waves pulled me out and I freaked out and couldn’t swim back?
To sum up, “horror,” “terror,” “trepidation….” such words can never describe the feeling I have when I think of the ocean.
But I can’t go to Hawaii and not swim in the ocean! I have to!
Well, O-Day (Ocean Day, a day to live on in infamy) didn’t come until Thursday. Believe it or not, there’s so much to do in Hawaii that we almost didn’t have time to go to the beach. At all. But Thursday morning, we packed a beach bag and walked on down to the beach.
Now, we had walked down to Waikiki Beach Monday afternoon when we arrived. I have never seen any one place so crowded in my life. It was insane. Thursday, morning, however, it was still pretty calm. We laid down our beach towels and prepared. I did some deep breathing exercises. Scott did a mental review of his CPR training. I marched down to the water.
I splashed around a little. The water tugged at me. I ran back to my towel.
Scott went down and did a little better than me.
Scott actually suggested we leave once he came back, but I didn’t want to. I dug my heels into the sand (literally) and demanded we stay a while longer. For all my mental envisioning, I failed to bring my Kindle with me, but I wanted to stay. I felt like there was something more I needed to do.
I thought about everything that had happened on that beach. All the celebrities that had stayed just a few hundred yards away at the Pink Palace. The soldiers that came here on their time off while they were stationed at Pearl Harbor. Millions of people had sat on this beach, watching history come and go and a hundred years from now, people will still come to this beach. Rich, poor, homeless, aristocrats, and every level in between.
There it was. My determination was back. I marched down to the water again. This is my leap of faith, I told myself. I’m going to put myself into the hands of my maker! I piddled around with the water lapping around my waist. I decided to paddle out and….a swell slammed me into the sand below. Saltwater burned down my nose and throat. At that moment, I wanted to go back to my warm towel so bad. But I was on a mission. So, I paddled out again. When I saw a swell coming, I backed up to dodge it. Once again, I was slammed into the sand, and now lava rocks.
I was stalled there for a bit. Every time I advanced, the swells knocked me back. I wanted to give up, but I knew I was almost where I needed to be. A thought occurred to me. What is it people always say? Go with the flow? Ride the wave? Metaphorically, of course, but it must be true literally as well.
When the next swell came, I didn’t back up or try to dodge it. I paddled into it. “Jesus, I trust in You!” I said aloud as I threw myself up into the wave, trying not to think of what would happen if it carried me off. And then…
I realized that all those things we say about Jesus keeping us safe on a restless sea…it works literally, too! I said prayers as the swells lifted me up and set me down, and it was the most beautiful prayer time I’ve ever had. Floating in the midst of the enormous ocean, I felt like a tiny speck, and yet I felt safe and sound in God’s hand. I went pretty far out, too, about 100 yards or so. Scott got anxious for a while there.
Waiting for the waves to come and surrendering to them, it was like doing trust falls with God. It was my time alone with Him. Granted, I don’t have to go to the ocean and throw myself in to spend time with God. But it was a little time the two of us had together where I could know that no matter how big the ocean is, or how restless, I was taken care of. The woman who was terrified of the ocean? Once I got in and remembered who is in charge of the waves, I was just fine.