(Blog 6 as I continue with stories from our trip to St. Kitts.)
You can’t visit a Caribbean island without getting in the ocean sometime during your stay. We did just that several times and even did some snorkeling.
First I want to take you back a year to my first snorkeling experience when Ted and I were in the British Virgin Islands. With snorkeling, one wears a mask so you can see clearly underwater; flippers are worn on your feet so you can propel yourself; and one uses a snorkel, a ‘J’ shaped tube that goes in your mouth and sticks up in the air above the surface of the water, to breathe. If you just relax in the water while breathing and kicking at a leisurely pace, snorkeling can be a very lovely experience. The water in the Caribbean is warm and there are many fish and coral to see. Now I am not the greatest swimmer. We were at The Baths on Virgin Gorda – an area with a labyrinth of huge granite boulders along the shoreline. As we snorkeled offshore, my swimming insecurities took over and I started kicking and breathing way too fast. In hindsight, I realized I was hyperventilating which caused me to get dizzy as panic took over my logic. No one else was near me. Ahead, I saw a huge boulder that waves had carved out a concave little cubby. I kicked and swam for it as fast as I could. I was afraid I would either drown or pass out before I could get there. With adrenaline surging through my veins, I made it to the boulder and hoisted myself into the safe cubby, oblivious to the coral that scraped and bloodied my legs. I clung to the inside of my safe cubby in the boulder while crashing waves tried to pitch me back into the water. Screaming for Ted, I finally caught his attention and pleaded with him to get the dinghy and come rescue me. Gently, he said that he thought I could swim back to the boat and after about ten minutes of controlled breathing and my mental attempts to shake off the panic, he talked the confidence back into me.
Fast forward to this year’s trip to St. Kitts. I couldn’t wait to get back to snorkeling. I felt I had learned from the previous year that I need to relax and let the flippers and snorkel aid me as I enjoy the warm waters and awesome view of fish and coral. You guessed it – I started freaking out at my first attempts. As the familiar panic washed over me, threatening to choke and drown me, I had to get back to our boat to hold on and talk myself down. “Relax” I told myself. If I could just calmly trust my breathing to the snorkel and not kick my flippered feet so frantically, this could be a pleasant experience. I finally squelched my panic and was able to enjoy myself. I had someone on the boat toss me one of those flotation ‘noodles’ and that helped give me extra flotation confidence.
The experience brought to mind that old saying: “Let go and let God.” When I kicked too hard and breathed too fast in my attempt to take control of my flippers and snorkel, I failed miserably and nearly drowned myself. When I let my body and breathing relax, snorkeling became a comfortable and peaceful experience. In life, don’t we often try to kick as hard as we can while struggling to handle the challenging waves that daily crash over us? Oh we of little faith! If we surely trust in God to strengthen and guide us, then why do we panic and act like we are drowning? We need to let go of our struggles, trust God, and let Him lead us to still waters.
Psalm7:1 O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; Save me from all those who persecute me; And deliver me.
Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 36:7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
So easy to preach, so difficult to practice. I suppose those times I had to “talk myself down” so that I could calmly snorkel would mirror the necessity to talk to God in turbulent times so that He can keep us from drowning in our troubles.
Instead of panicking and losing your breath when life sends you struggles, say a prayer and let Him guide you safely through life. Enjoy the view while you’re at it, too!