I have this memory.
Do you know the kind? It’s the kind that embeds those moments in your life, those moments of great fear or panic, and they etch themselves so deeply into the recesses of your brain that you will never forget?
Do you have memories like this?
I’m sure you do.
I am a small boy, in a swimming pool at Gene Epply camp.
I don’t remember hardly anything from that time…but I remember that pool.
I remember how I stepped off of the edge and into reflective waters. Perhaps it was a hot day, I do not recall, but I do recall my little legs straining to touch the bottom and just finding more water. Panic set in. The sounds of the laughing and playing children around me faded in and out as I struggled to stay afloat while my vision and my ears were precariously between the two plains – Water and air.
I can only imagine what my face looked like in those brief but terrifying moments. Others might have seen a small toe-headed boy with wild panicked eyes flailing around in aqua blue waters. I knew, without help, I would drown. I hadn’t learned to swim yet, and I was going under.
All of this probably lasted only mere seconds, but to a drowning boy who was taking water into his lungs like it was air, this moment seemed to take an eternity! Finally, large hands grabbed me with great strength, and I was hoisted out of the depths of those waters and into safety once again.
It’s funny what you remember when you are young. Those odd things that stand the test of time and come calling into our recollection from time to time. Memories are a funny thing. They flutter about, and come to life when certain scents waft in the air, or through certain songs…or in this instance, when I visit a swimming pool.
That moment still lingers in me even after all of these years.
I believe it was my father that pulled me out of those waters – me, a little terrified boy who had yet to learn to swim.
I think there is a very real spiritual parallel here to grasp.
Many people in our communities are struggling to stay afloat in life.
Some have waded out too far from the safety of the shores.
Some have terrified looks in their eyes as they suddenly realize their predicaments.
Others have simply given up trying to stay afloat and are about to go under for the last time.
My son became a lifeguard last summer.
His time as a lifeguard taught him to remain vigilant during his shift at the waters edge.
Every now and then he and the rest of the lifeguards had to come to someone’s rescue and pull them back to safety. The job of a lifeguard seems glamorous with awesome opportunities for tanning, but in reality it is a job of ever watchfulness.
In the same way, a follower of Christ ought to be a lifeguard who is deeply committed to watchfulness. The water’s edge, the place of safety is the Church…where firm ground and restored hope surrounds all that are rescued. The problem I see in the Church today is that there are far too few lifeguards willing to risk it all and venture into the depths of the waters when they see hapless people drowning in its depths. There are far too many comfortable lifeguards who are more preoccupied with casting judgments like “it serves them right” or “they are just getting what they deserve!”
I am glad Jesus didn’t say that about us!
We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…it doesn’t say all (except for ________(insert our names here), no ALL…everyone of us have fallen short. (Romans 3:23) Instead it says, “for while we were sinners (while we were drowning in the depths…while we were going under for the last time) Jesus died for us. (Romans 5:8)
I still have that memory forever etched in my mind.
The day I almost drowned, was also the day I was rescued.
Perhaps, dear Church, we should get back to lifeguarding, because there are still so many falling below those dangerous waters…and who will help them? Who will come to their rescue? We are called out