Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Vacation Files: Panic in the Riptide

I really enjoy body surfing.

Well, I used to. When I was ten years old. I maybe did it when I was 14 or 15, but that was the last time. So it's been, what? Sixteen years since I did any body surfing?

*sigh* I'm getting so old.

During our first full day at the beach, I got out the boogie board our vacation house provided and tried my hand at it. Well, I guess I tried my whole body at it. As I got dumped in the surf and filled my hair and bathing suit with sand. I also taught my husband and my father-in-law how to do it. The waves were really big! We all caught a couple of them to ride in and had a great time doing it.

At one point in our surfing adventure, I got separated from my husband. I was just kind of floating on the boogie board and not catching any waves, and then I realized that I'd gotten really far out. I was past the breakers and farther out than I'd been—farther out than anybody else was. I was off the shelf and couldn't reach the bottom, so I tried to paddle toward my husband and the shore. It didn't seem to do any good.

I started to panic. I tried to swim, but I had that stupid boogie board with me. I couldn't figure out how to maneuver with that thing attached to me. I took it off my wrist, but that didn't help—I don't know what I thought that would accomplish. How did I get in this riptide and, more importantly, how would I get out of it?

Great. My first day at the beach, and I was going to be swept out to sea. And eaten by sharks. Clearly.

Then, instead of looking at my husband (who was way down the beach from me), I looked at the shore right ahead of me. That's not so far, actually, I thought. It was only then that I remembered an important fact: you're supposed to swim parallel to the shore, not toward it, to get out of a riptide. I'd read some beach safety website in preparation for our vacation—mostly because (like a dummy) I'd been watching a lot of Shark Week and River Monsters and wanted to know how to avoid the large, scary ocean animals who were clearly going to devour me. Especially since I'd suddenly become a tasty shark treat floating away in the ocean.

But I digress.

So I started to swim away from my husband, parallel to the shore. It brought me in close enough to ride a wave in, and then I walked back to our spot on the beach.

How many times do we start to panic when we start to get carried away by life? And we have a tendency to focus on variables instead of constants. I was looking toward my husband (who was in the water himself) instead of the shore, which wasn't going anywhere. As much as I love my husband, he's no lifeguard. I was trying to get to him, not to the shore, and he couldn't have rescued me. I needed to keep my wits about me and focus on what mattered.

I've done that so much. I try to rely on people who are dealing with waves and riptides of their own instead of allowing God to be my focus. He's not going anywhere. He's got the stability I need. I don't know why I panic and look elsewhere.

What do you do when life's riptides start to pull you out? Do you keep it together and head toward God? Or do you try to hang on to something else that's merely floating around in your life?


  1. Ooooo... I like this imagery. No sharks nipping at MY heels today. Got my eyes on the shore! :)

  2. Great post!!! What an amazing experience and what a great lesson to pull from it!

  3. What a great parallel! I have a thumb sized bit of faux ivory clay I shaped and inscribed with PPWJ as a physical reminder to keep my eyes on Jesus. This was after God delivered one of those lessons that leaps out of nowhere and wallops you on the side of the head with its obviousness. I was reading the story about Peter trying to walk on the water: as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to do so and not be wracked by fear or doubt or distracted by the storm. I am a stubborn nut, but I realized I wasn't capable of always remembering to do as you did and refocus on Jesus when I'm in the middle of a storm. Enter the little stone, my own physical reminder that I keep in my pocket: Perfect Peace With Jesus.

  4. Let's say that I try to keep it together and head towards God.

    This seems to be a bit of a battle as sometimes the other things wash me out a bit (many puns intended there).

  5. Oh, *such* good points! I think it is especially tempting for Christian women to turn to our husbands when we should be turning to God because we're constantly reminded that our husbands are crucial to our lives. And while that is certainly true, no husband is God, and we risk drowning our husbands along with ourselves when we turn to them to save us. So I love your imagery and reminder here!

  6. Great post! Love your insights. I'm not a swimmer AT the water but it terrifies me. I was panicking just reading your post! So glad you are safe!

  7. First i want to say"I love your new profile picture!" You look great.

    This post was so descriptive and frightening for me because I am not very steady in the water. the comparison to our dependency on Jesus was perfect.

  8. Keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. Thanks for this wonderful analogy. God bless.

  9. Oh, man. Again, you're so good at finding analogies in life to live out our faith.

  10. Wow...amazing picture painting here.

    And very much q through provoking scenario that reminds me I panic too often myself at first...trying to do it on my own, looking to what I can see rather than Who I know is always there beside me never about to let me fall or drown into an abyss.

    Thank you for sharing this. I deeply value this post,


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