In the late 1990s, my wife Lynn and I were based in a mission station about 200 miles south of Tijuana, Mexico. We would be working in Baja in the sleepy little village of San Telmo. It was hard work, but we would take day trips to a beach on the Pacific Ocean. One beach in particular, was a favorite place for surfers.
One day we headed out for some sand, surf and sea. Little did I know that day, that I would almost drown. Yes, the waves were bigger then usual, but we set up camp and our two children combed the beach, under our watchful eyes. After a while, I gathered up my ‘boogie board’ and headed for the water.
I had caught several nice waves, and was having a wonderful time. But all of a sudden things got scary. I was working the waves on the north side of the beach, when suddenly– I lost control. The current began to pull me away from the shore. I doubled my paddling efforts, but still I was being pulled out.
I became really afraid. (Actually, I was panicking.) The beach was getting very small, and I still was being pulled out. It was at this point, I began to pray. I had never experienced a rip tide. I really wasn’t sure what was happening.
In retrospect, I was being ‘schooled.’ I learned more in 20 minutes of stark terror, then in many months of classroom teaching.
1) I learned that I’m not in control of my life, there are things completely beyond me. I had zero control over what was happening. But often life is like that.
2) God can take my life whenever He chooses. He decides when I leave this earthly existence. “My times are in His hands,” the psalmist declared.
3) I needed to admit my profound ignorance of many things that are intensely important to know. These gaps in my knowledge will often take me where I don’t want to go.
4) Stay on your board! Cling to it. You WILL drown if you get separated from it. You can also use it to rest on when your arms feel like they are going to fall off.
5) Start to swim parallel with the beach, NOT toward it! The current is very likely 30-40 yards wide. The rising panic will probably keep you focused on the beach. You cannot overcome a riptide by trying to paddle harder.
6) If you make it through this, the beach is beautiful. You will be exhausted. Your friends will not grasp how close you came to drowning. They have no idea what has just transpired, and you realize you can’t explain what just happened. But all of a sudden, you have lost all enthusiasm for the board and the waves.
Often it feels like my mental illness is a massive riptide. To fight it directly is disastrous, and pulls me away. I look back and realize that my experience has given me valuable things, an understanding that nothing can replace.
- Swimming Through and Out of a Rip Current (brighthub.com)
- High surf, coastal flooding are forecast for Southern California beaches (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Life-threatening rip tides to be seen again at shore: National Weather Service (nj.com)
- Long Slow Surf: Drowning (neanc.wordpress.com)