The Ocean’s Dangers
On our first day in Hawaii, I noticed the dangers of the ocean – not because I was at the ocean, but because of the many signs and notices everywhere.
On another day, our boat was taking us out from the harbor to a spot one-quarter of a mile from shore. The guide on the boat gave us directions as we headed toward the submarine that was going to take us to the bottom of the ocean. There were things we needed to know in case something happened.
I admit it was a little disconcerting when his humor put such a spin on things that I thought at first he was serious. But then, after he explained oxygen and evacuation procedures, he told us that in the twenty-five years of sinking to the bottom of the ocean in the sub seven times a day, they had never, ever had to use these masks or life vests.
I trusted him because of his many years of experience and because I knew this crew had been trained and were prepared in the event that an emergency would occur. I would never have wandered out there alone, but with a captain and guides who had been this way hundreds of times, I knew we were in safe hands.
Everywhere we went on this Hawaiian island, we heard safety precautions. Truth be told, the first warnings came at the airport after our six- hour flight from Phoenix. Changing placards and intercom announcements alerted us to the fact that these islanders were concerned about the safety of the tourists in their land.
No matter where we turned, there were signs and billboards, videos and recordings warning us of the dangers of the ocean. There’s a reason for those warnings, and those who live near the ocean understand better than visitors the unseen dangers.
While the ripples and the waves of the Pacific were a sea of splendor, those who have traveled the waters understand better than anyone else the dangers that lurk under its surface. I could sit and watch the breakers on the shore all day; I can watch surfers and gliders out in the waters. There is something so mesmerizing about the beach and the rhythmic movement of the surf and the waves. From low tide to high tide, there is majesty and amazement. And danger.
I re-learned again how strong the pull of the tide is and that sand is not a safe place to try to anchor my ankles! And I learned that, no matter how many castles I build in the sand, they will someday wash away.
How Life is like an Ocean
Life is like that. We dream and build castles – then watch them crumble and slide back out to the ocean.
We think we’re in a safe place, only to find that our moorings were cast on points that will shift and move.
No matter where we live or where we go, no matter our age or life’s experiences, we do well to heed the warnings of those who know the sea. We can apply them to life.
Life is like an ocean. We can sail the seas; we can swim and surf and seaboard. We can glide over the waves and sail on its waters. But always, always, there are some things of which we must make certain we heed.
When we’re trying to make a decision about a future employment, education, friends, a spouse, or even the places we go and the activities we pursue, we do well to heed the warnings plastered by those who know the ocean best.
How to Be Safe
That is why the islanders boldly state, “One must approach the ocean as a wild, untamed animal.”
Then they tell us how to do this.
Let’s listen to these seven warnings, and then apply them to our lives.
1. Don’t turn your back to the waves. You think you know a situation, but you must always remember that, if you turn your back to the waves, you can be pulled away from shore. Recognize that Satan is powerful and will attack when one least expects it; so never turn your back. Scripture tells us that those of us who think we stand should be careful, lest we fall. One way to do that is to never turn our back to the waves. And, when the apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus how to dress to fight Satan, he called it putting on the whole armor of God. Did you know that this armor provided no protection for the person’s back? There’s a reason why we put on God’s Word and face the foe, never turning our backs.
2. Swim where there is a lifeguard. We are not made to be lone-surfer Christians. We need others who can spot danger and warn us of riptides. And we need to listen to those lifeguards who can caution us to swim in safer waters. We need folks with more experience – folks who’ve seen the ravages of a tsunami and can watch the horizon along with us. If we swim alone, there will be no one there to pull us in to safety, no one to shout an alarm when there is danger. Don’t try to be an “I can do this myself” Christian. We all need our lifeguards.
3. Ask Locals if it is safe. Folks who live near the ocean have years’ experience we don’t have. Just so, folks who have walked with Jesus for a long time are your Locals. They’ve been around the bay more times than you can count, and they can pretty surely tell you if your event or activity will take you closer to Jesus or pull you away. So listen to the locals. Don’t just ask their advice; follow it.
4. Guard up and be equipped. Swimmers and surfers are encouraged to bring along proper equipment. It’s a guard – and a safety net for surviving an excursion. So when you’re going out into places that could be dangerous, do you guard up? Are you equipped? We need to know the dangers and be equipped to face those dangers. Scripture says that we need to be prepared so we can give an answer of the hope we have in Jesus.
5. Swim in clear, clean, high visibility water. That makes sense in the ocean or in life. When one cannot see what’s under the water, there is more danger. Unless you’re called by God to go into specific enemy territory, stay in the high visibility water. If you are called by God to go into danger, then remember to guard up and be equipped.
6. Go out as a group. There is safety in numbers, especially if those in the group have safety as its goal. It’s true that a group can bring more peer pressure, but if you choose the right group, you’ll find yourself in a safety net. Be on guard if a member of the group endangers others by his own negligence or by daring others to swim in places that are not safe.
7. When in doubt, don’t go out. If you’re not sure; if you don’t have a sense of direction; if you don’t really feel at peace, then don’t go out. Don’t go there! Just say no. Don’t do it. If you’re in doubt, that’s your sign; don’t go out.
There you have it. When choosing friends, an activity, a church, a marriage partner, a date, a job, or a community, if you follow these seven nuggets of advice from the sea wizards, you’ll be able to swim or sail calmly and cross the ocean safely to the other side.