18 June 2011

When You Pass Through the Waters

As I went through the exercises I prayed. Jesus. I let my mask fill with water and then cleared it. Jesus! I dropped the regulator and executed the recovery move. Jesus. I released the weight belt and reaffixed it. Jesus. I cleared my ears to equalize the pressure. Jesus! I tried to sift my thoughts and find the words to pray, but nothing came to mind readily, only: …Jesus.

Excited about wetsuits...and SCUBA!
I was sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool in full scuba gear in the middle of an urban area of San José. A storm was building up overhead, but under the water everything was quiet and blue. Every exhale sent bubbles rushing past my face. Around me a few friends practiced the safety drills with our instructor while an occasional swimmer passed by in the lanes above. But I didn’t really see them. The muted slow-motion world underwater seemed in such stark contrast to my chaotic thoughts and feelings. I watched the bubbles tracing a path to the surface and listened to the magnified sound of my slow rhythmic breaths, but my mind was still reeling, trying to process what had happened just an hour before. The thoughts tumbled one upon the other without order or flow. Bits of the conversation replayed in my head mixed with questions: Had I done something wrong? Should have I had said something else? Where did this come from? How in the world can I possibly fix this? …Why?! But even as I asked the questions, I knew I would never be able to make sense out of the situation. Nothing about it was logical or understandable. All I could do was pray. And pray I did, sitting there on the bottom of the swimming pool. For a long time nothing would come from the confusion in my brain but “Jesus!” and that was enough. But as the assurance that God is in control washed over me, I could finally put together coherent sentences: Jesus, calm my heart. Give me peace. Father, comfort her troubled mind, and change her heart. Give me wisdom and your eyes to see the situation. Help me to glorify you in this situation. What others have intended to harm me, use for Your ultimate good.

It began to sink in, the absurdity of the day, and I bit down on the regulator to keep from laughing. Here I am. I’m in Costa Rica. I’m in Costa Rica in a swimming pool dressed in gear that looks like I’m planning to lead an intergalactic war (or at least a war on fashion).

This is the only thing that could have possibly made my experience underwater any more ridiculous.
 I’m on day three of a nasty head cold, I’m facing some mild…“intestinal challenges,” and yet the knot in my stomach isn’t from being sick or the anxiety of breathing underwater for the first time. I had begun the day by receiving an unprovoked email from an acquaintance in the states full of bitterness, judgmental personal attacks and name-calling. More amused than annoyed, I had assumed that would be the random ridiculous occurrence for the day. There was no way I could have known that it was just the warm-up act for what else was coming. The details aren’t really important, and I won’t share them here for the sake of the others involved, but I was completely blindsided by a person making ridiculous (and I mean seriously, seriously ludicrous) accusations about my behavior and intentions and impugning my integrity when I tried to explain the truth. And so I found myself in this preposterous position, floating along with a heavy heart, considering the magnitude of the damage that could result from this situation and struggling to find the missing piece that would make it all make sense. Yep. My life is ridiculous.

I spent the evening processing, praying, and trying to track down supervisors who were, of course, gone to Guatemala for the week. The first victory from this situation was that not only did I figure out how to call Guatemala from Costa Rica, I called the hotel and spoke to the receptionist on the phone in SPANISH, and she actually understood me. I mean, sure she eventually switched to English for my benefit (and probably hers too!), but we had communicated effectively to that point. Gotta celebrate those small victories!

The next morning I awoke still sick and feeling like I had had crazy dreams, only to realize…no, that’s actually my life. I was just in the process of waking up for my day when I heard an explosion and…the power went out. Yep. I had left messages through every conceivable medium for any and everyone to please contact me ASAP, and now I was uncontactable. But I heard Brittany squeal with relief when she saw that the coffee pot had produced just enough for two cups before the power went out. (Again, it’s the little things!) In a melodramatic moment as I listed all the things that had gone wrong in the last two days, I moaned, “I feel like Job!” Realistically I knew there was no comparison between the current challenges in my life and the complete testing to which Job was subjected, but I couldn’t help feeling that when it rained, it really poured. A couple of hours later, Brittany and I both chuckled when we sat down to take our test in phonetics class. We were given a passage and asked to circle all the diphthongs. And that passage was? The first chapter of Job. ;-)

My favorite part of the day is always reading from the Bible in Spanish in phonetics class, and the passage selected by another student that morning jumped off the page and into my heart:

“But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’” – Isaiah 43:1-3

God promises they won't, but this is what I'd look like if the waters DID sweep over me.

I thought back to the two verses I have memorized in Spanish thus far:

“Do not be afraid for I am with you, do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10


“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Such peace for an anxious soul:
Fear not!
Our Savior is faithful!
He is with us!
He is working all things together for good!

In illness, in opposition, in false accusations, in hurtful words, in criticism, in trials, and in the simply absurd days… He is there, and He is faithful.

Many things are still up in the air right now, but the company has been extremely helpful in dealing with the situation, and I have a peace that God is working things out as He sees fit for the good of His children and for His glory. I have certainly felt the prayers of so many who have been lifting up the situation to our Father. It has also been a blessing to be reminded of what wonderful friends I have. I’d be lucky to have one or two close friends who love, encourage, and defend me, but I have been blessed above and beyond when it comes to the people in my life. They exemplify what Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 (I hope you're lucky enough to have some friends like these awesome people!)

Please continue to pray for me and for everyone involved in the situations. Pray for physical health, and for continued peace of heart and mind. Pray for wisdom and guidance for those making decisions. Pray for those who have lashed out in pain, that they will turn to God to heal their hurts and restore their joy and peace. We know that Satan is the Accuser, the Father of Lies, and the author of confusion. Pray that he does not get one ounce of victory from any of this! Pray that God be glorified in every aspect and that His purpose be accomplished in me and everyone else involved. Also, please pray for Brittany, as she has been caught up in all of this just by being associated with me. She’s been great about it all, but her life will be affected by how this plays out, so don’t forget to lift her up as well! Thank you thank you thank you for your encouraging words and prayers!

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