I love the ocean. I wanted to be a mermaid when I was a kid. The first time I recall being truly furious was when I watched Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid at the age of 7. “They shouldn’t make movies for little children with sad endings!” I fussed through my tears, all the way out to the car after the movie. I still believe every movie should end with me smiling.
I am not a mermaid. I have legs and I’m hopelessly landlocked at present, but Groupon likes to tease me with mini-adventures, so I recently bought a Try Scuba lesson for Poseidon Adventures. It was 35 degrees when I crawled out of my toasty bed and donned my swimsuit at 7am Saturday morning. I quickly covered up in a few layers and headed across town. Thankfully, the pool was almost as comfy as my toasty bed. Randy showed me how to find a mask that fit well, and helped me put on my BCD—Buoyancy Compensation Device. It’s a vest with two buttons. One inflates the vest to help you rise to the surface and the other deflates in hopes that you will sink. I’ve never been much of a sinker, but the weight of the oxygen tank helped hold me down.
I knew I needed this pequeňo introduction to scuba. I dream of swimming all over the world—Belize, Palawan, Costa Rica, everywhere there is ocean to explore. But I know me, and I know that some dreams are scary to step into. I covered my face with the mask, put my mouthpiece in, and went under water, holding my breath even though Randy had specifically said “Never hold your breath when you’re diving.” Specifically. I’ve even seen that in movies and know better. But it was natural to hold my breath. I sank to my knees under the water, looked at Randy calmly sitting like Buddha on the bottom of the pool, decided to take a breath and promptly pushed myself to the surface. Freaky. Sucking air out of a tank did not feel normal.
Ok. Deep Breath out in the open. Mouthpiece in, try again. I did it the second time, and Randy showed me how to take my mouthpiece out, let it go and find it again. Clear it out and breathe. He’s so calm it made everything easy.
But that was only the first step. Step two—getting water out of my mask, while underwater. That is neither logical nor easy. It involves tilting your mask just so and blowing the water out with your nose and after I rose to the surface spluttering about 6 times, I finally did it enough to pass Step 2 although I’m not sure I could do it again. Thankfully, I was the only student there, and Randy is very patient. My thoroughly chlorinated sinuses are so clean you could…yeah never mind.
There are things the experts know. Holding your breath on a dive could cause you to cramp up. Rushing to the surface to clear your mask can give you the bends. If you want to experience the unbelievable beauty of a coral reef, you have to override your self-preservation instincts. You have to override them repeatedly, until the instincts are modified.
What instincts have been programmed into you, that are holding you back from exploring beauty like you’ve never known? It’s scary, taking that first breath underwater and feeling that little valve resist you slightly. It’s scary, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a new relationship when you’ve seen your parents fight or when you yourself have been hurt. It feels a little freaky, walking confidently into a meeting and demonstrating what you’ve built if you don’t know how to read the people around you. Who do you trust? Do you trust the Expert, or do you trust the Instinct?
God gives us little tests, little Try-it lessons, so we can splash to the surface and look ridiculous and disgusting without actually dying. If God’s nudging you toward some type of Try-it, whether it’s a Meet-up group or a cell group or Toastmasters or even a scuba lesson, don’t sit at home where you’re comfortable. You never know when God plans to take you somewhere amazing, so make use of the opportunities He gives you to prepare.
Israel went through a famine, but Elijah went wherever God sent him and just trusted. He camped out by a brook, and God sent ravens to feed him. After awhile though, the brook dried up. Many of us would have thought, What–God can supply ravens but no water? What’s up with that? Elijah didn’t accuse God, he just listened, and God sent him to Zarephath. He asked a widow for a drink, and also asked her for a piece of bread to eat. She said nope. “My son and I are about to eat our last meal and die.” He told her to make him a loaf of bread first, and promised her that her oil and flour wouldn’t run out. I don’t know a mom in the world who would feed a stranger before her own starving child. That goes against our instincts. But she did it, and the three of them had enough to last them through every day of that famine. You can read the story here.
Lord, help us to listen to You this week. You are the expert. You gave us our instincts, but we need You to teach us when and how to override them, so we can be ready for any adventure You have for us.