I wrote this devotional a few years ago after a week of Vacation Bible School at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in San Antonio, TX. Not only did our two boys, then ages 2.5 and 5 attend VBS but also my husband and I. They had an adult class which pulled in around 15-20 adults per night. I had never known a church to hold an adult class before and loved it!
The theme for VBS was some sort of ocean theme, I can't remember it exactly but the staff/volunteers from the church wore blue t-shirts throughout the week which had the verse below on the backs of the shirts. All week long I saw these shirts and this verse. It must have ingrained itself into my mind.
I didn't think much of it until a few days after VBS when a memory popped into my head in the middle of the night. I remember waking up and seeing this event so clear in my mind as if it had just happened. I hadn't even remembered what had happened to me for years. And there it was in my mind, as clear as day. I could smell the ocean. I could feel the breeze. I could hear the waves. Somehow, seeing this verse all week long triggered a memory I had long forgotten--and more importantly, it brought God's Word straight to my heart. I understood that verse and how remembering it in the future could bring me comfort. I remember too feeling so...driven to write. The need was so strong and the words came out so fast and so clear. I look for these opportunities whenever I can find them--if God needs me to write, then that's what I want to write, even if it's in the middle of the night. :)
And so I wrote late one night and this is what I came up with. I had never before written a devotional. I know for many devotionals if I was to submit it to somewhere formal, it would be too long. That's okay. My purpose was just to get it captured. To relive that day and to think about how it relates to the the things that happen to us in life.
I've shared my devotional with three different writing groups and they have all praised it and it's message. More importantly, I shared it with the Pastor of the church where we attended VBS and he surprised me with an amazing email back. He included my devotional in their newsletter which was sent to nearly 400 members. I even received a personal email from one of the members complimenting me on my writing, on the message and on caring enough to share something so important. I was so honored to know that my words reached that many and I hope the message touched them too.
The entire incident that I describe below happened so quickly--I'm sure it was only a few minutes but when you're struggling in the ocean, a few moments can seem like an eternity. The same is true for when change hits us. It might only be a few minor changes that we are facing but getting through those can take forever and wear on us day in and day out. Throw a big change at us and we're wondering if we have the strength to even face it let alone to get through it.
I think that's some of what I was facing this past week. Small changes coming at me one after another. Big changes looming in the distance. Decisions to be made. Significant tasks to be accomplished. No wonder I've felt "tossed about" by the waves of change. Reminds me of when I was a teenager. Well, that's enough clues...read on. :)
So, here it is in it's rough form. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to comment about what you think about my devotional, as well as your thoughts about change. How do you navigate change? What helps get you through the rough times?
A Summertime Devotional – June 2010
copywright Kim Villalva (2012)
“If you go through deep waters, I am with you.” - Isaiah 43:2
Like many people, I’ve always loved the water. We used to visit the beach a lot when I was growing up. I remember one summer as a young teenager when I discovered the joy of riding the waves.
After watching several vacationers jumping up and over the waves farther away from shore, I decided to join in the fun so I ventured out to where the water came almost up to my chest. Now I could ride the waves too. I bobbed on my big toe imagining that I was a ballerina with flawless balance. Every time a wave came I’d leap up into the air, let the wave carry me up and over, and then ride down the other side of it. I was on nature’s roller coaster. Every time I descended a wave, I’d quickly search for the ground again with my big toe.
Before I knew it, my roller coaster malfunctioned and the waves started rolling at me much more frequently. It was as if someone had pushed the “fast” button on the roller coaster—the waves came at me one right after another with almost no break between them. I was desperately trying to keep up with this new ride. Up and down I’d go. Then I noticed that the waves were starting to curl and break right where I was leaping and jumping. The waves were now several feet taller than me as they closed in on my position.
I saw the curl of one wave as it approached me. It looked like an ominous tidal wave right before it swallowed me up. The current’s pull was so strong that I got sucked into the wave and it broke right on top of me. I flipped backwards into darkness while the rushing of water pulled me and pushed me at the same time. I struggled to find the surface and no sooner did I lift my head above water than I saw another wave crashing over my hopes for much of a breath of air.
When I struggled to the surface the second time, I was desperately trying to find the ocean’s floor with my toe. My foot stretched and wiggled but there was only water below me. I looked and saw no one near me. I had accidentally drifted out much further than I thought. Only being a mildly passable swimmer, I fought to not get pulled under again. I thrashed against the sucking waves and knew that the farther from shore I got, the deeper the waters would become. More waves crashed over my head. Sometimes I faced the looming monsters head on and saw the terror before I felt it. Other times I’d see the beach but would look over my shoulder just in time to see the wave snatch me from behind.
Finally my toe found the ocean floor again and I fought with all of my remaining strength to gain momentum against the current’s pull and to get my feet flat on the ground. As I gripped my toes into the sand, I won the tug of war game with the sea. It was if the ocean decided to let me go in order to find another playmate elsewhere. I hurried to the sandy shore while the smaller waves continued to taunt and smack me on the back. Once I reached the safety of the beach, the sun and sand greeted me with caressing warmth as if I had never been gone. I looked back towards where I had been. All looked calm and inviting once more in the sea.
We often find ourselves floundering when the life we had been enjoying suddenly turns scary. Sometimes it seems like problems come into our lives one right after another and before we know it, we can find ourselves overwhelmed. We are tossed about and are unable to regain our footing. Illness strikes. We lose our jobs. Responsibilities overwhelm us. People hurt us. Just as if we were in the vast ocean, there is nothing for us to grab on to and we find ourselves struggling to stay afloat in the deep waters.
When we find ourselves in situations that are literally over our heads, we shouldn’t be afraid of being pulled down into the darkness. God reminds us that He is with us even when we are in the deepest of waters. God has a steady grip on each of us as He helps us to regain our footing. His loving hand holds our feet until they are steady on the ground once more.
But even if we have to endure the struggles of the deep waters before we can return to the safety of the shore, again we need not be afraid. In the sea where waves of panic, doubt, stress, and fear overwhelm us, God’s love fits securely around us like a life jacket. We might have to ride the monstrous waves but can take comfort in knowing that God’s love will keep us safely coasting up and down until it is time to find our footing again. It is His love that gives us the buoyancy we need to survive in those rough and trying times.
God’s words are the reassurance that so often we need but can sometimes overlook. Just like I did that scary day at the beach so many years ago, we panic and think that we are all alone in our troubles. The anxieties of our situation threaten to envelope us and consume us with a cold and frightening darkness. Remember that God has promised to be with us even through the roughest and deepest waters. God’s comforting touch is with us always.
Heavenly Father, You created the seas and the land. Thank You for staying beside us during the difficult times in our lives. When we feel tossed about in deep waters, we thank You for keeping us afloat in the safety of Your loving arms. Amen.
Until next time my friends, enjoy this beautiful start to summer! Watch out for those waves! :) More importantly, hold tight to the God's loving hand no matter what comes your way.
Note: If you'd like to use my devotional for a newsletter or website, I'd be happy to share. Please just contact me first so that I know where and how it's being used. :)