t 23 years ago, we were on the Big Island of Hawai'i for Thanksgiving as was our family tradition. But something happened on that trip that I'll never forget though I had no idea the significance it would hold in my life two decades later.
We'd spent the afternoon at Magic Sands Beach on the Kona coast sunbathing, snorkeling and boogie boarding. Without question this little stretch of sand along Ali'i Drive was one of our favorite spots. The soft, pale yellow sand hugs the bay, lava rocks dot the shore and the northern elbow of the cove. The amount of sand varies throughout the year based on the season and tide, hence the name.
Soon it was time to go back ashore, so my sister and I followed my dad back into the cove. As we got past the break, we noticed a ruckus just ahead of us near the rocks. My dad, who was once a lifeguard and swimming coach, realized someone was struggling and rushed ahead of us to help. He found a woman, a bit older than he, thrashing about struggling to swim. Apparently they'd swam too far so she was tired and the waves were making it hard for her to swim ashore though she was already in water shallow enough to touch the bottom.
I watched as my dad talked to her, gently helping her to safety. And I wondered, "why doesn't she put her feet down and stand up?" But she was overwhelmed, tired and panicking. It can be hard to catch your breath, and gain your footing when you're in the ocean. And she needed someone strong, calm and sure to tell her "put your feet down." Once in the capable care of my dad, that's what she did, and he walked her ashore.
Recently, that story came to mind again as I thought about the tumultuous current, battering waves and overwhelming exhaustion of daily life. How many times have I gone too far, done too much and left myself exhausted? How many times have you been tossed by bad news, thrown for a loop by something unexpected? How often do we get utterly overwhelmed by the chaos of life?
"...the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:6
It's just easy to be trapped in despair, fear, shame, busy-ness, grief, anger, and/or guilt as it is to be trapped in the waves along Hawaii's coast. And it's dangerous because it leaves us susceptible to the enemy who would love to see us give up and drown. He hopes that each wave will leave us a little weaker, a little more confused and a little more stuck there in our deathtrap.
But, so often, the answer is to put down your feet and stand. Stand on the truth that Christ died and set you free. Stand on the truth that you are a child of God. Stand on the truth that in Christ you have victory over the enemy and all his schemes. Just stand!
"And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today." Exodus 14:13
Moses knew that the people would be afraid. He knew they would experience the feeling of being afraid. But what he's saying here is something like don't cower in fear, don't wallow in it, don't get lost in it. Then he says "stand firm." To me, he's saying, "Stop wrestling in the waves of fear/guilt/shame/busy-ness, and stand up." Just stand up, already.
Standing takes presence of mind. It requires recognizing that we are thrashing or wallowing, struggling against the waves or sinking into the abyss. Standing means giving up the fight and letting God pull you to your feet. He's calmed the seas, He can calm the waves threatening to overtake you. He's conquered death, He can conquer whatever is holding you in the grave. Just put your feet down and stand up on His truth.
"So give yourselves to God. Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you." James 4:7