I have a confession to make.
I can’t swim.
This was never more obvious than at summer camp some years ago.
As an active member of my youth group, summer camp was one of the highlights of my year.
A week with my friends, laughing and having fun outside? Sign me up!
There was one part of summer camp that I always dreaded, however.
The swim test.
Or, more accurately: the get-large-groups-of-kids-into-the-lake-at-one-time-and-see -which-ones-sink-and-which-ones-float test.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t quite like that. There were plenty of lifeguards and staff around. In fact, I think that swim tests are a great idea (especially if you can already swim)!
One particular summer, I was determined to pass the swim test. I was tired of being embarrassed and feeling like the awkward kid. So, my friend and I decided to take swim lessons together.
When the (dreaded) day finally came, I splashed into the camp’s lake with a group of other kids, eager to swim out to the floating dock and back. I wasn’t going to try to race, I told myself. Just make it.
I swam as hard as I could toward the dock, where kids were allowed a rest before turning back.
I was clearly behind the rest of the pack as I tried to paddle back to shore. I was having trouble staying afloat, and I was tired. But I was making it.
Then I got leg cramps.
I couldn’t swim anymore.
I could see the shoreline and a lifeguard mere feet away.
In a terrifying moment, my head dipped under the water and I began thinking, “I am going to drown.”
I popped back up and tried to get the lifeguard’s attention, but seeing as I wasn’t yelling or splashing — just panicking — that wasn’t going very well.
Thankfully, the lifeguard saw me and moved towards me with his flotation device.
“Need a lift?”
Once I had latched on to the flotation device, the lifeguard then informed me that I was four feet from being able to stand in the water when I had cramped up.
A kid that reached the shore just before me (sans lifeguard with flotation device) turned back and said, “Did she fail?”
Yep, I sure did.
So, swimming is not my forte. But the crazy thing is, I still love water! I love going to the beach and playing in the surf.
Water, however, can be quite dangerous.
I find it interesting that in English we use the expression “that sinking feeling” to describe feelings of apprehension, dread, or anxiety.
The prophet Jonah, quite literally, experienced that sinking feeling when he was swallowed by a “big fish.” (Jonah 1:17)
Jonah describes it this way:
For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. … The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
-Jonah 2:3, 5-6 (ESV)
King David, in the Psalms, also wrote of God’s “waves and breakers” sweeping over him him. (Psalm 42:7)
And in Psalm 139, King David writes:
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘“Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
-Psalm 139:9-12 (ESV)
What I find interesting about David and Jonah’s words is their assertion that God is always present in the darkness.
The deepest part of the ocean in world is the Mariana Trench, according to a PopularMechanics.com article. The ocean floor is nearly seven miles below the ocean’s surface.
The bottom of the sea is a place of immense darkness and tremendous pressure.
Yet, the darkness is not dark to God. The depths are not too deep for him. He can withstand the pressure.
C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Miracles:
In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. … one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.
Jesus is the deep sea diver that went on a rescue mission without an oxygen tank.
We are the “dripping, precious” things that Jesus went down to recover.
Jesus stripped himself of his kingly rights and became like his creations. He experienced mental, emotional, spiritual and physical suffering. He was tempted and tormented. He experienced death to give us life.
Jesus knows what it’s like to sink.
When Jonah was sinking, Jesus was with him. When King David experienced the depths of despair, Jesus was with him.
And so it is with us.