A few years ago I had the opportunity to return to southern California where I spent my teenage years. I was attending a ministry conference and our hotel was on the ocean. During a break in the conference, I rented a boogie board and hit the beach to catch some waves. I swam out about 50 yards from the beach and floated in the swells waiting for just the right wave to take me in. I hadn't been out for very long when I saw a lifeguard swimming toward me. When he got within shouting distance, he hollered, "do you know what you are doing?'
I remember looking around to see who he was talking to. Surely not me. After all I grew up in southern California. I've been to the beach many times and although I'm not a surfer, I have body surfed many times and used a boogie board from time to time.
He shouted the question again, do you know what you are doing"? Now I realized he was directing the question to me. All I could think to answer was, uh, I guess not. I couldn't imagine what I was doing wrong just floating on a boogie board waiting to catch a wave.
The lifeguard drew closer and explained, "you are in a riptide and I need to get you out. I'm going to throw you this rope, just grab on and I'll pull you out."
I grabbed on and he swam toward the shore pulling me in. I never knew I was in any danger, even though I had drifted quite a ways away from where I went in. Later as I thought about the incident, I realized that this was a great illustration of life and a great teaching moment.
Seldom does one fall quickly into spiritual lethargy, pornography, divorce, financial or emotional bankruptcy. It's almost always a slow drift without us even knowing that we are in trouble until we start to sink.
To rescue us from the riptides of life, we desperately need a lifeguard, someone close to us that can recognize the trouble we are about to fall prey to. What if we had that one person, that lifeguard that could speak truth to us when we venture into unsafe waters, that person who would tell us the truth no matter how much it hurts, "do you know what you are doing?!"
Think of the thousands of lives that could have been saved from drug abuse, financial ruin or divorce if the fallen had an accountability partner, coach, counselor or advisor?
Riptides of life are inevitable, but we don't have to be victims.
- We all need a lifeguard, a mentor, coach or running partner who we can be brutally honest with. Better to have one of each.
- We are accountable only to the areas in which we allow someone to hold us accountable. Therefore we must be open to advice and actually listen. We must surrender our pride, humble ourselves enough to allow others to help us and be willing to grab on to the rope when offered.
- We need to be grounded in faith, on the biblical values and standards to know when we are straying. If we can keep our eye on Jesus as Hebrews 12:2 says, we can survive many of the riptides of life that can destroy us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Spiritual, financial and practical mentors, friends and coaches can help us keep on course, if we allow them access to our lives.