In search of the lifeguard

When I was at the University, I had to undergo counseling as a requisite for my degree in Psychology.  It was a good thing; that was a really rough period in my life, and I could use guidance, even if it was only a grad student’s.  He said something one day that has reverberated in my head ever since.  He said that I seemed to go through life looking for a lifeguard; I get myself in trouble, grab the closest one on the beach, and as soon as I have solid ground under my feet, discard him and move on.  I needed to find my own strength. After 20-plus years, I think I finally have – but in my very next thought, I know I’d be smarter to just keep one on retainer.

I was happy to find when I became a Christian that there was not only a savior, but a guide to follow.  Because the more I read, I saw that I’d be in some seriously deep, live water with nobody I knew leading the way.   I will get in over my head and need assistance.   The trick is in accepting the challenge to go into ever deeper water and trusting that He is really there.  It’s in His best interests, after all, for me to succeed in His name.

My dad knew he could not swim.  He knew his float point was the bottom of the pool.  But it never stopped him from going where everybody else went.  He trusted that life vest enough to wear it.   I will never forget the look on his face when we stopped one time in a small cove to take a break from skiing with family friends.  We kids all dove overboard and began playing in the  sheltered waters of a little bay.  He threw the anchor over and noticed it stopped about a foot short of the end of the rope.  “How long is that rope?”  he asked his best friend.  “Uh, a hundred feet, why?”   My dad’s quick calculation of the height of the boat and slack in the line left a stricken look on his face, seeing all his children overboard, and himself in a life vest.  Even though we were all competent swimmers, he knew that he was not.  And this was some seriously deep water.

I liken faith to that life vest.  My dad trusted it to preserve him in case of accident and potential demise.  He never would have jumped over to go swimming with us, but he could feel secure in the boat as long as he had it.

How many lives have been lost because people bought the jackets but then were too proud to actually use them?  Accidents will happen in this world, no matter how much preparation we do to avoid them.  But we also have no need of one if we never venture with Christ beyond the Starbucks kiosk on the church patio.   Church membership needs to be a lot more than so much fire insurance.  We have to take chances and try new things in order to grow and achieve anything.  We have to have courage and confidence to go beyond our depth, but also the humility to ask for assistance when we need it.  I know it wasn’t the easiest thing Dad ever did to admit to his best friend that he feared going out on the boat, but he got in it anyway and watched his children learn to waterski.   It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done to proclaim Christ in my blog – but it’s what I’m given to write, so I do, and ask Him to please not completely offend my friends.  Worthwhile accomplishments never come easily.

But frankly, I really don’t like staying in the shallow end anyway.  It’s safe, but….  Many people advised us against moving to Las Vegas years ago, because it would be moving into the very lap of the enemy.  Our entire family would be lost in the seductions of the devil’s workshop.  We went anyway because we could have twice the house, twice the lifestyle, and at the same price as California living.  At least we weren’t lured by the world’s treasures.  It killed me to give up my beach, but that’s another story.  I found life there to be challenging, but not because of the charms of the Strip.  I fell in with people who asked me hard questions and made me realize I was using ChristianityLite, and not the real program that Martin Luther and Corrie ten Boom set their very lives on.  It was during this time that I came across a quote by C.T. Studd:  “Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”   Hmm.  I am just selfish enough to not want to risk myself for someone else.  And there is a lot of security derived from having believers around me.  Maybe, in the midst of the flock,  I can just baaa my way in the right door.

What  I’ve noticed, though, is that I cannot seem to stay in the midst of the flock.  I have a perpetual fascination with rebels.  Not truly evil, mind you;  I am just drawn inexplicably to the sheerly rebellious side of life.  I am not embarrassed to wear the life jacket, but I want to go further.  I want to dive and look at fish and experience all of life.    I want the reality spoken of in Acts, not just a provider/protector persona that I can pull out of my purse as needed.  There’s so much more to faith than mere security.   In order to shuck the jacket and do more, I must develop a relationship with the lifeguard; Christianity is a team sport.

This may border on blasphemy, but I had a friend years ago who was the biggest kid any of us had ever known.  He was 6’3″ and 240 lbs. of pure muscle before he entered high school.  I’d known him since we were 8.  About the time I started college, life got crazy; too many changes happened too suddenly and I developed a hair trigger.  Our group was large and diverse, and trouble abounded – with me in the thick of it.  But every time I got in over my head, my buddy’s huge arms would close around me, pick me up,  and remove me from the situation.  I could struggle against him, cry in his big leather bomber jacket, or just snitch the flask from its pocket; he was always there when I was in need.  I was safe with him.  I imagine this is what God is like, to a certain degree.  His big, strong arms are capable of stopping me or the situation, and nobody dares challenge his authority.  He saves you from yourself just before you become one with the pavement.

Okay, my homeboys are now on the floor, and it may be a minute before the giggles and tears subside.  I told you it bordered on blasphemy, but it’s been a picture in my mind for months.  That man is probably one of the best friends any of us ever had, and I know I’m not the only one from that group who would stand in front of speeding trains for him to this day.

But how many of us will say that about the one who actually allowed himself to be nailed to rough-sawn lumber to die for our misbehavior?  My buddy never even so much as took a punch for me.  And yet we’ve have shaken our fists, denied and cursed the very name of the Creator who made us.   If you have followed the story of Jesus’ life at all, he chose to do it.  He is recorded, several times, as having disappeared from the midst of a crowd when necessary.  He could have done so again at any time.  But he chose to put the problem to death, once and for all, so that it could not endanger me anymore.

It seems so pitiful that all I have is “thanks” to offer in return.  He asks me to live offensively and lean into every situation put before me, just as He did.  But I won’t do that on a “Thou Shalt”.  I’ll only do that for (or with) a known, trusted friend.  I must develop a relationship with the one who saved me, so that He knows me well and I begin to trust Him with my everyday safety.

Maybe that’s why I’m still drawn to live on the dangerous side.   I’ve been plucked from the clutches of death now several times for the sake of righteousness, whether it be the integrity of my car’s roofline or my son’s life,  and I’ve realized that my Savior is real.  Just as real as the warm, leathery smell of that black bomber jacket, I know God is there.  He’s not giving me stuff, and I don’t need him to.  He’s already given all He needs to.  I am living within reach of hell, and I feel the heat.  The other sheep in the flock already have their safety assured.  With the shadow of my savior in my periphery, I am encouraged to venture out to other rebels who are just as tired of being alone in the rough waters as I am.    I can show them there is someone there for them when the tide starts ripping.  Because that’s when we all could use a strong, trusted friend.

“Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.”

– C.T. Studd

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7 thoughts on “In search of the lifeguard

  1. Awesome Brenda…really awesome.
    Cant read the text against the dark backround, but other than that…fantastic.

    Faith is such a wild thing. Today I faced some challenges that threw me into the pit of worry…very “woe is me” BS, but to sit back and fret is the exact opposite of what God wants and what will feed you. Fear stops us from getting what we need. I see that every time I go in the coop to feed the chickens…as I open up the container that holds their feed they run off like…well, chickens, far far away from the food they hunger for, and even if they slowly return, the moment I move, they scamper away madly. I would never hurt them, but they are afraid I might. If there were a brave chicken in the bunch, she would get fed far and above any of the others.

    The nibblers of the possible, versus the grabbers of the impossible quote is magic too.

    Dont fear life and the crap it throws you. Grab it and revel in it and enjoy the smell !! All of it is an amazing gift from God.

    • Thank you, my friend. That really means a lot. You are probably the only one who truly understands all the nuances in this piece, since you’ve been by my side all the way as well.

  2. I was recently given what I can only describe as an epiphany. Something happened that so rocked me to my very foundations, that the shell I had surrounded myself with for most of my life was blown to pieces in a heartbeat. In that moment, I was granted total clarity and knowledge of all that had transpired to bring about the situation that I found myself in. The fear and turmoil that I had lived with for my entire life was blown away. In the weeks since, I have had to come to grips with my part in the process, and I have had to deal with a new reality. This has been the hardest thing that we have ever had to go through and is the best thing that could have ever happened to us all at the same time. I am going to take my new reality and use it to build myself from the ground up since the person I was before was an artificial construct of fear and anger that I used to protect myself from harm. I am going to start attending AA meetings since I am an alcoholic, but the alcohol was just a symptom of a greater problem. At this point in my life, I need to have others around me who have been through what I have and have lived much as I have. After reading the book that explains the 12 steps and their purpose, it was like reading my own biography. My wife and I are two sides of the same coin, but have dealt with it in opposite ways. She began going to AA about 6 months ago and found the answers hse was looking for and had tried to get me to go but I was too self involved and angry at myself to listen. Because of our recent seperation, my wife and I are now closer than we ever have been before. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and our marriage may very well be unsalvageable. I am blessed that we are still friends and we will still be a big part of each others lives and not just because of the kids. She told me recently that it would take an act of God to get us back together, but I will always hope for a reconciliation because my love for her is still strong. With time this may change, but it is like we were given an opporotunity to start over but weather our relationship will be as friends or lovers or will fade with time is all in God’s hands. I have no control over what happens from here on out. I only know that I am grateful for what I still have. Thanks Brenda for the forum to vent a bit and I hope that this helps someone else out. Everything has changed and all I can do now is to keep moving forward and use all that I have learned to become the person God meant me to be.

    • My dear friend, I have prayed every day for you and your wife and your son. God’s in the business of making all things new – that’s what the Creation story is all about. I am learning that once He blows me away to absolutely nothing left of ME, only then can He build me from the ground up as He intended. We are created in His image, but we’re doomed by a sinful nature. At the point we give up the right to ME and MY WAY, then He can give us the life we were supposed to have. Thanks for sharing. I’ll keep up the prayers and watch what He’s got in store for you. Because I think He’s just begun. I struggled mightily with alcohol in the late 80’s – lost an internship because of it – but once you find something that truly solves the frustration, it loses its power. I am SOO glad you shared. I went through some depression last week and couldn’t write a thing because you weren’t out there to listen.

  3. Oh, and I don’t know if this will help or not, but think about going to an AA meeting as an observer and get a hold of the book that describes the 12 steps to check out. Don’t know if it will help, but the program is good for much more than alcoholism. I feel like I have always had a dictionary that only had the words, but no definitions. I could pay lip service to my advice, but was incapable of following it due to my own self involvement. That has changed. Stay in touch. My phone # is on my Facebook page if you ever feel the need to connect personally.

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