“Mike, I dislike muck. I really can’t stand the stuff. It creeps me out.”
(The muck I was talking about was the green, grassy, “stuff” that is commonly found along the edges of a lake or pond.)
Mike was my canoe instructor and while I don’t remember much about his reply, I’m sure it was something along the lines of
“Well, it’s there. It’s kind of hard to avoid”
As much as I wasn’t thrilled to hear it. I knew it was truth. I just had to do my best to avoid it.
Later that afternoon
We jumped out of our canoe and waited for the other team to practice their maneuvers. Fortunately the water was warm…so hanging by the canoe (literally, by one arm) was actually really nice. At least, for the first few minutes.
“Mike, were getting close to the edge of the lake.” Mike glanced over briefly and continued with training.
I continued to hold onto the canoe. But 5 minutes (or more) went by and my joints and muscles started getting tired of one position. I decided to try shifting and reposition myself.
The gentle breezes had continued if not picked up and as such had caused the boats to float even closer to the edge; closer to the muck. Except I didn’t know just HOW CLOSE we were.
Instead of just switching arms and maintaining face contact with the canoe. I turned away from it.
I should have maintained boat contact. I should have. I didn’t.
The moment I turned my body and let go of the boat and I became my own floatation device – the gentle breeze swept me “muck-ward.”
I didn’t like that one bit.
I was wearing a “shorty” wetsuit and thought it would be protection enough. Until…
I felt a soft and mushy grass like substance “glide” against the calf muscle on my leg.
THAT WAS IT, that was all it took.
I jerked and gasped and then, I screamed.
“Mushiness” and I don’t mix. My jerk reaction caused me to lose focus from getting AWAY from the muck.
I jerked again out of sheer fear. But the more I reacted the closer I seemed to float “muck-ward”
My gut reaction had told me the jerking motion would set me free. It would help me escape. But as I was kicking and jerking to escape the muck, I sensed double trouble.
In my haste to vacate the grass, reeds and what-not…I felt something I didn’t like against my shoe. A rope, a net…
My mind reeled as I fought against an invisible something I couldn’t see. The more I kicked, the more my foot got wrapped up in it.
Fear turned to PANIC. I was being “swallowed” by the muck and reeds and rope.
I’ve got to get out of here. I thought to myself. How do I get out of this?
My panic intensified. I could feel the situation worsening.
My muscles contracted. My mind flew in a million directions at the speed of light.
There was something going on behind me with the other boats but I couldn’t make sense of it.
I couldn’t hear much beyond the screaming between my own two ears: only my own thoughts of Panic. Fear. Isolation.
I swam harder and kicked like hell to get away from the net; to get OUT of the muck and mire and my FEAR.
I tilted my head from looking at the edge and the slope and the watery green mushy mess that was just shy of consuming me. I laid my head back – against my life jacket. I positioned my eyes toward the Heavens as if searching the sky, but I couldn’t open them.
My breathing was so shallow.
“Breathe” – I heard.
So, I repeated the word:
I heard myself say the word and continued to repeat it REALLY loud. Over and over again. As I repeated the WORD breathe, I could feel my foot escape the bonds of the netting and the grasses.
My heart raced. I felt it for the first time.
I was disoriented and my head spun as I tried to gaze around me. I looked at the boats and closed my eye.
Exhausted. Exhaustion. Whatever was left of me, I just wanted to float. Float and breathe and find calm.
I swam to the dock ever so slowly, got out and laid down…
- I couldn’t believe that had just happened.
- I wasn’t sure WHAT had happened.
- I spent the rest of the trip and training trying to piece together WHY that had happened?
I am good swimmer. A strong swimmer. How did that happen?
Another reality hit me. I knew that if I hadn’t had my life jacket on me, I would likely have gone under.
The basic water safety rules had kept me alive and safe, but I was dumbfounded by what had transpired. I’d been rendered speechless.
I reflected as the hours passed and got the answers in bits and pieces.
Here was the summary of what God shared with me:
- You made your fear bigger than ME.
- I AM (God) bigger than ANY fear.
- Your fear would have consumed you, I made sure you faced it on MY TERMs.
- You couldn’t have failed the test because you were wearing a LIFEvest.
- the physical vest saved your life
- your spiritual vest was refined during your learning process
- Your fear was self-imposed and becoming over inflated.
- it was holding you back
- This happened to prove I AM with you whenever and wherever. ALWAYS.
- YOU aren’t alone and NEVER will be.
- That you can TRUST ME.
- That I Love YOU
- And yes, it was MY voice you heard.
I have been out on the water since then. I have assisted at an event and am looking forward to doing more.
What I’ve realized is THAT experience was a blessing in disguise.
I still don’t like muck. Yuck, Ick, Blech.
But what I recognize now is that my fear is a tactic of the enemy. See, I like being out on the water. I like canoeing and kayaking a lot. It’s a perfect combination of fresh air, sunshine and exercise to put my soul at ease.
But had I not faced that “trial by fire” under those circumstances, I might not know how to deal with a situation like that in the future. (Not that I want to)
Now, I have an idea of what could happen and I might be able to respond differently. I might be able to build on the lessons of that afternoon.
Training is a beautiful thing. Not only did I go out there and receive my level 1 canoe certification but I learned that GOD is BIG. He NEVER leaves my side.
Most of all our FEARS aren’t bigger than GOD even if they seem bigger to us.
The trick is are we willing to TRUST God enough to allow us “FEAR-growth” moments.
The LIFE we live. The life GOD has given you and I, is just as much about change as it is about blessings.
Do we face change alone and isolated or give GOD a chance to show us that with HIM on our team – ANYthing and EVERYthing is possible (Matthew 19:26)
Don’t let the sun go down on today or face your next trial without having Christ with you to walk you through it.
I really love this Chris August song. And I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to it. Cause I was trapped in the center of the MUCK & MIRE: But HE was THERE.
When it feels like I’m going crazy,
And it looks like nothing’s changing,
Come sun, come rainy day,
You are still the same…..
…..When I rise, when I fall,
You’ll be there through it all
At the start, at the end,
In the center of, the center of it….
God NEVER fails. SEEK HIM. FIND HIM. TALK to HIM. HE’s waiting for YOU.
Don’t miss HIS boat.