Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Many years ago, Steve and I lived for a time in Oceanside, California.  We took advantage of being so near the Pacific coast and spent many afternoons and weekends at the beach, splashing in the surf or watching dolphins from a blanket on the sand.

I wasn't a strong or confident swimmer 30 years ago, but I loved being in the water.  On one of those rare occasions when I felt brave enough to venture into deeper water, I found myself caught in a riptide (also called a rip current, but "riptide" just sounds so much more powerful, don't you think?).  A riptide  is a strong, narrow current of water flowing out from the shore, something like the return flush from all those waves crashing onto the beach.  Imagine all the power of the incoming surf, compressed into one narrow channel of water.  Then imagine the force and speed with which that jet of water races from the shore and back toward the ocean.

Weird thing is, when you're swimming in the ocean, you don't see a riptide or feel a riptide - you just look up from paddling and suddenly realize that you are waaaay further from shore than seems possible.  How is it that folks on the beach look so tiny, when only a minute ago they were just a few yards away?

The temptation is to panic.  To kick furiously toward the nearest point on the shore.  The solution is to begin swimming calmly parallel to the shore, not toward it.  By swimming parallel to the beach, you'll soon be out of the narrow but powerful pull of the riptide, and can once again swim productively landward as the surf pushes you toward the shore.  Thankfully, someone had explained riptides to me before I experienced one first hand.  I made it back to the DelMar beach that day, instead of washing up weeks later on one of the Hawaiian islands.

Still, it was a scary experience.  In an instant, I had moved from splashing carefree in shallow water, to finding myself in completely over my head, unable to touch bottom or to swim against the current, frantically longing for the safety of land. It instilled in me a greater fear of and respect for the power of the ocean.

C.S. Lewis writes in "A Slip of the Tongue" (from The Weight of Glory):   "The tempter tells me, 'Take care.  Think how much this good resolve, the acceptance of this Grace, is going to cost.'  But our Lord equally tells us to count the cost.  Even in human affairs great importance is attached to the agreement of those whose testimony hardly ever agrees.  Here, more.  Between them it would seem to be pretty clear that paddling [near the shore] is of little consequence.  What matters, what Heaven desires and Hell fears, is precisely that further step, out of our depth, out of our own control."

God, grant me the courage to step out of the safety of a shallow relationship with you.  Catch me up in the riptide of your Grace.  Take me out to deeper water, and help me to never, ever look back.

No comments: