A few summers ago, I went tubing on a river with my family. I’d never done it before, and each of us had a large tube and a life vest as we peacefully rolled along on a wide and quiet green watery highway, beers in hand. I was having the time of my life.
And because it was summer, and hot, and because I am stupid, I loosened the straps on my life vest, but because I am only stupid and not insane I did leave it buckled.
We gently drifted for miles, soaking in the sun as we listened to the companionable murmur of others floating nearby, trading stories and catching up with one another.
Suddenly, we heard some shouts a little further down river. Apparently there was a deeper section coming up with a few areas of swift moving water and a few boulders. No white-water stuff, just a few areas where it was a bit choppy. I had no fear; I was in a large buoyant tube, wearing a vest, and chubby enough so that neither one was likely necessary.
But then before I could blink, I lost my center of gravity, tumbling off the tube and into a raging surprise of green. Green all around me, and nothing else. No sense of up or down, left or right. And most surprising of all, no vest either.
It was a surreal moment. I knew I was underwater with no flotation device and no sense of direction. If I kicked my feet I could just as easily drive my head into the bottom of the river as pop to the surface. I flailed about, beginning to panic, and then something moved across my face and I grabbed it.
I had no idea whose it was, but I knew in an instant that I would eventually be all right as long as I just didn’t let go. It wasn’t supplying me with air, or helping me get to the surface yet, but it was there to give me something tangible, solid and not green. All the panic I had just a moment before had vanished in an instant and I became utterly calm.
It must have been no more than 30 seconds or so before I sputtered my way to the surface to the laughter and relief of my family. It had been my stepdaughter’s arm I had clung to, and I apologized for the red marks my grip had left in her skin.
I learned an important lesson that day; well, re-learned it, really. And no, it wasn’t about loose life vests, (although that’s a biggie, too.)
I learned that when you are in trouble, get a grip. Latch onto something good and solid until you find your way right side up and get your breath again. My stepdaughter gave me her arm, and now I will give you the sturdiest grip I know:
“…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Get a good grip on this, and hang on. You may not know yet which end is up, but you will.