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Not Forgotten

I remember one summer when I was 16, I went to the beach with dear friends of mine. The weather was moody and grey all week. But finally, the last day we had some sunshine to enjoy. And just as the amber rays of light began to dip down into late afternoon shadows, we all went for one last ride on the waves with our boogie boards. For a girl who can’t swim particularly well and who has a long-standing fear of water she can’t see the bottom of, I took to the sea with rare abandon. I can’t remember much of the rides out and in that afternoon except for the last one before we went inside to eat and end our vacation. I had just road in on a wave and was feeling proud of myself for my accomplishments that day, when out of know where a wall of water hit me from behind and sucked me under. My board bashed against me as I fought to regain what once was confident ground beneath my feet. Time seemed to stand still as I wondered if anyone had seen me go under and if anyone would come to save me if I was unable to maneuver my way out of this mess on my own. It was one of those out of body experiences where you seem to watch from above in slow motion. My life seemed to hang in the balance as every time I tried to stand and catch my breath another wave sucked me under. By God’s grace I somehow managed to grapple my way out of the clutches of the current and drag my water-logged body to shore. I remember laying there in the warm sand just inches from the clutches of the sea’s edge taking in big gulps of oxygen and being so thankful for air! It wasn’t too much longer that my friend came by and helped me up to standing on my still wobbly legs. I recounted my victorious battle with the ocean, and we laughed off what could have been as she shared her own stories from previous close calls with the waves. We shouldered the burden together as we walked back to our condo thankful for the warm sunshine and God’s protection.

This story has come to mind lately. The way the waves knocked me down and seemed for a moment to threaten my very existence. That tempting feeling to surrender to the undertow and drift off to sea, yes, I think life does this to us too. Out of nowhere the breakers come and throw us off our feet. What once felt like solid and sure ground now finds us tumbling around like we are stuck on the spin cycle in the washer machine. Before we know it, we start to question if we will survive, if anyone has seen us go under, or if anyone cares. We wonder how we didn’t see it coming. Were we too cocky? Too sure of ourselves? Was it bad luck or a punishment? And graver still, will we ever feel the warm sand under our feet again?

I have felt all these realities and more since we had COVID in October of 2021. Walking into the month of October I felt sure of myself, steady and at peace with whatever was to come. My God had parted seas and repaired the broken shards of my life in times gone by. I knew nothing was too big for Him. And I was determined to proclaim it all my days. And then we got hit out of left field with a sickness beyond my understanding or control. And as the weeks went by, every time I just about got ready to stand and catch my breath I was hit by another wave and pulled under. It's not been a fun place to reside. Beaten down by the inevitable tides of life, it has often felt like the big bully Satan is holding me down under the water and laughing at me. Assuring me I that I will always stay here, tossed about like a rag doll until I surrender to the inevitable fact that I will never be who God has called me to be. I was never as strong as I thought I was. I am not victorious. “Warrior of God”, he laughs all the harder at my previous declarations of faith. How dare I think I could be confident in my name under the blood of Jesus. What a fool I must have been. God doesn’t care and I deserve everything I have coming to me. Defeat becomes my life raft as I swirl around under the breakers slowly losing sight of the shore and any hope I might have had of survival.

In the midst of my struggle and wrestling I wonder what God sees. Does He shake His head in disapproval that I doubt? And on how I doubt so quickly His faithfulness to me. He can do the impossible, this I have seen, but now? I question if He really care about the fears that keep me up at night. Does He see me in the waves? Will He send anyone to lift me out and remind me to live and breathe and speak to me the truth my heart desperately needs so that I can face the waves stronger another day? Maybe all this is a punishment for idle words I have said or my lack of self-control. Or maybe the more I question and doubt, the more I invite God to discipline me into submission to His will. And then I read this verse, wrapped in humbling tones and empathetic phrases and it stops me in my tracks.

So, humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So, after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.

1 Peter 5:6-10 NLT

In this short passage I am reminded that I have allowed the lies of the enemy to become so deafening they have completely drowned out the voice of my Father. I haven’t stopped long enough in my striving and spinning to realize that in my un-surrender thoughts I am allowing the devil to devour me whole. I have got it all wrong. I have walked right into the enemy’s trap and instead of putting the blame on him for all the yuck I face as a result of sin; I have put it on a perfect God who came to save us from sin. God is not a God of punishment waiting to catch us messing up so He can toss us out to sea and forget us. No, the enemy does this. The enemy tempts us to believe we serve a God whose love wavers and who sends months of sickness on us just for kicks. As my fears have grown unrestrained, I have lost sight of the unconditional love written across my story in the hands of a good and faithful God, full of mercy and grace far beyond what I deserve. A God who waits for me to lift up my eyes and stretch out my hand to grasp on to His as He pulls me from the undertow and lifts me from the sea, setting my feet on solid ground and reassuring me through the truths in His word that His goodness and faithfulness never change despite what I face.

Like the vastness of the ocean deep, life often feels too big for us too, because it is too big for us. Enter Jesus! Nothing about who He is has changed just because the waves seem more daunting today then yesterday. His love does not change because of my sin or the guilt the enemy would try and tempt me with or the fear he threatens. No, my Father is still the same God who has seen me through every weary and unbearable season gone by. And while for a brief moment I have taken to franticly trying to control all that is out of my reach, the truth God reassures my heart with is that He has been right there by my side lovingly calling me back to Him and reminding me that He alone is my strength and support no matter what I face. He isn't going to forget to show up and love me through this moment too in only the unique and tenderly gracious way He can. I must believe that in His love He will reach into the wave and pull me out. That He won’t leave me here to drown in sorrow and self-pity. That this too shall pass. I must ride the wave with Jesus and trust He will see me through to the other side. That whatever humbling process He walks me through, sickness, failing health, lonely seasons or unbridled children, He will use each situation to continue to chip away at those places of pride and unyielded ground until there is nothing left of me and the confidence I too often put in my own ability to fight the waves and win. So, I cast my cares on Him, believing even when I don’t see it or feel it, He is always there, and His words remain true. Trusting His promise to come along the shore and lift my weak and trampled body off the ground and set me on a firm foundation again and strengthen my shaking legs. He has done it before; I am confident He will do it again.

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