When I was a little girl, our family took yearly trips to the beach. My grandmother had this beautiful beach house that could comfortably house my mother and all three of her sisters and their families. Although our family has always had its ups and downs, I still remember this time as being mostly happy. Maybe because I was a kid, I overlooked some of the not so nice things that accompany nearly 20 people being under the same roof for a week, but some of my fondest memories include the sand between my toes and galloping up and down the wooden walkway to the beach in front of the house where Eric, Eric, Justin and I would pretend to be Ninja Turtles, kicking up sand and raising a little hell.
What I didn’t like as much was the actual ocean.
I remember very distinctly the time I thought I was going to drown. I had followed my older cousins out to deeper water and though I could touch the bottom by bobbing down and back up again, I was up to my neck, feeling as though at any moment I could be swept away. Thumping with almost more power than the ocean, my hear beat loudly in my ears as the older kids continued to wade further and further out–further than they were really supposed to go and definitely further than I was allowed.
I wanted to go.
Sure, I was scared, but this was the first time they hadn’t teased me or told me to go back to shore. Honestly, I’m not even sure they realized I was still following them. If my sister had, I’m certain her face would turn as red as a hermit crab and I’d be sent–or forcibly hauled–back to shore.
I wanted to go, but I felt stuck, and the longer I hesitated, the further away they got. Finally, I resigned to my cowardice and turned to shore.
I almost made it, but my back was to the ocean when the wave hit and I was dragged under. Water forced it’s way up my nose, and if you have had an uninvited, forceful nasal cleaning–you know the surging pain (and resulting fear of netipots) that resulted in that moment. I tried to swim to the surface, but I didn’t know which way was up. And I could feel the lack of air in my lungs as I tumbled with the wave, under the wave, controlled by the wave until he finally spit me out on the shore, where I sat–bathing suit full of sand, and never so grateful for Oxygen that forced seawater out of my nose and onto the crushed shells beneath me.
I looked around expecting to see my parents rushing toward me in fear and gratitude at my being alive.
Oddly, no one noticed.
Now that is NOT to say my parents weren’t watching me at the beach! PLEASE don’t get that impression because they were very attentive and strict, but kids will be kids and sometimes kids do dumb things and it happens so fast it’s over before you even realize your kid did something stupid.
That was me that day.
I had decided to break the rules, and I felt the consequences of that decision from my burning nose to the sand deeply embedded in ever crevice of my suit and body.
And it wasn’t pretty.
This story reminds me a lot of Psalm 69. The psalmist cries out to the Lord to save him from waters that are up to his neck because he feels like he will be pulled under without help. As he cries out, he puts his faith and hope and trust in God, but even as he cries out–looking around it seems like no one noticed.
God is attentive. God is strict. BUT sometimes humans are stupid and the result of that stupidity (whether it is our own fault or a consequence of someone else’s stupidity) is often pain, fear and even death.
This does not mean that God doesn’t care.
It doesn’t even mean that God isn’t there.
But humans will be humans, and we have to deal with the result of disobedience that started with the Garden of Eden.
When I walked up the beach, properly chastised for my bad decision, my mom took one look at me and asked what was wrong.
I won’t lie. I didn’t tell her the whole story, but I think she knew. And she didn’t yell or scream. Though she had every right, she didn’t even tell me ‘I told you so.’ Instead, she picked me up and hugged me tight. Then she helped me wash out the sand.
God is the same way.
When we return to him, when we call out, God could turn His back on us, but he doesn’t. He picks us up and washes away the dirt–it’s why he sent us Jesus.
And I’m really glad.
‘Cause drowning, sucks.