One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him. Luke 8:22-25
I must have studied this passage a thousand times. I talk to the children about it in class. Even my Kindergarten students know that Jesus’ power to transform a situation came through His words. They draw the comparison with when God first created the heavens and the earth. They tell me that God said, “Let there be light” and light was. They remind me that if Jesus says something then it will happen because “He is God.”
No wonder the Bible tells us to come like a child!
Before the storm even comes, Jesus made His intention clear. They were going to the other side of the lake.
When we lean in, when we listen to His voice, we hear His plan before the storm comes. Though the storm may catch us off guard, he winks at us through the lightening; reminding us we will never be alone.
This summer I set myself the goal to become an ocean swimmer. It was not a grandiose goal, no plans to race, no plans to win. Just the desire to get from Manly to Shelly and back, it didn’t seem impossible at the time.
Since my childhood I have been a swimmer but having grown up in suburbia (not the beautiful beaches suburbs where I live now), ocean swimming has not been my forte. Moving myself from the calm of the Olympic pool with ropes and lines to the ocean pool at North Narrabeen satisfied my desire for adventure until now. Suddenly the pull to conquer the elements drew me to Manly for the Bold and the Beautiful, 7 am swim. Hundreds of people do it every day. Some do it twice. All those pink caps bobbing in the water!
When you sign up for your first swim you are surrounded by kindness, camaraderie and courage. Everyone believes that you will make it. They share their stories of how hard it was for them at first, they tell you to take your time, to rest at The Point, to swim in at Half-way Beach if you are overwhelmed or to get out at Shelly and walk back. Their words buoy me like my new wetsuit does and to begin with I believed that if all else failed I would float.
The first time I swam all was fine until I got to The Point. Treading water with all the other participants I stopped to see how far I had swum and how far I had left to go. Without warning irrational fear swept over me. “I can’t do this.” I said to my husband, “you have to get me out.” It was only then that I realised that during Sam’s treatment for leukaemia I spent the year visualising myself in an ocean trying to keep my head above water. Without warning I was back in the ward trying to make sense of the situation, mustering up faith that we would not drown under the diagnosis. Here I was in a literal ocean and suddenly too far from shore. It no longer mattered that I had made it to The Point without hesitation, that I wasn’t out of breath, that I was surrounded by support. I felt like the disciples must have felt in that boat. I forgot about Jesus faithfulness to me and His reputation to be by my side. In my mind it was over and I was going to drown. I sought an escape route but there was none to be found. My only option was to calm down and to keep swimming.
My husband’s voice was calm. “Let’s do 50 strokes together, then we will pause.” Somehow we did this until I got to Shelly. I was shaken but relieved to be on dry ground.
Since that day it has taken me many attempts to get back in the water. Once I left Manly, swam half way to The Point and turned back. Another time I got in at Half Way Beach and swam to Shelly and walked back to Manly; then yesterday I managed to stay calm all the way from Manly to Shelly. This morning I planned to sleep in when my husband decided to surf, I texted my friend to ask her for coffee instead. She said she would meet me after she swam.
I grabbed my things and jumped in the car arriving at Manly at 7am. I was challenged by her courage to go it alone and decided that I would do it too. Together we negotiated our way through the waves to The Point. I lost her as we passed Half Way Beach and found her again at Shelly. Without thought we headed back side by side all the way to Manly to find another friend on the sand cheering me on.
Hundreds of people swim in the ocean every day. For them it is easy. For me it was hard. Through it all I was reminded:
Jesus knows our destiny.
He knows the storms will come.
He gave us His word so that we could put our faith in Him.
He does not leave us to drown.
He is with us in the storm.
He sends people to come alongside us.
He is with us always, all the way to the other side.