Back in February, Mr. Castle and I went on a Caribbean cruise. What a blast we had.
The best memory I have...and there were many...but I went snorkeling for the very first time. What an experience. But it turned out to be more than just a cool excursion, it was a perspective changer.
You look out across the waters, which were beautiful and so clear, and don't even realize there's a whole world just beneath the surface. It's not until you actually go out into the depths, step off the shore, take that plunge, that you are able to see the amazing wonders of God's world.
I'll admit, me and water have a love/hate relationship. I can swim...well enough to get across a pool.
Okay, halfway, but whatever.
I think it's pretty. I love the many blues. I love the expanse.
So long as I'm on shore. Or on a boat. The bigger the better.
This day, I was going in. Oh boy, I was quaking in my flippers, let me tell you. But there was this little voice, an unreasonable, yet persistent voice, that begged me not to miss the opportunity.
I couldn't ignore the voice. So I went in. Despite my better judgement.
It doesn't look deep until it's deep!
Our snorkeling guide was named Tino- short for Constantino. What a generous heart. His son, Tristan has a budding church in Mahogany Bay. Tristan gave us a tour of the island. I think I was more impressed with his passionate heart for God, than I was the island. It was a close call. =)
Here's a picture of Mr. Castle and I entering the tourist area.
So, everyone else had been snorkeling before. Except me.
Tino takes me into the water for a quick tutorial. He shows me that I won't sink. God made the water to hold us up and all I need to do is kick my fins. And hang onto his arm. No matter what, he told me, don't let go.
I chuckled thinking, isn't this what the Lord is always telling us? Just hang on and follow where I lead you.
The water was so clear, I could see the sand for a good distance out. This couldn't be too hard, right?
He shows me the dark patches in the water. That was the reefs. He pointed and gestured, telling me we'd swim out for a ways and then circle around and return a distance down the beach. Sounded easy enough.
Float. Kick. Breath through the tube. Hang on!
However, once we got going, I was astounded!
The world below...was so amazing. Such colors! And the details, the intricate plants, rocks and sea life. And the fish were just going along on their merry business, ignoring us for the most part.
I was fine. It wasn't even very deep... until we got to the edge of one of the reefs and the land dropped away. I gasped, forgetting I had this thing in my mouth and all that. The land just...fell away.
It was amazing, but I was kind of wanting to get back to the shallow areas. The safe areas.
My guide, Tino, he kept on a steady path, unseen to me. I had no idea where we were heading or how long it would take. Let me tell you, I was hanging on tight!!
Hopefully, my nails didn't dig too deep into his arm.
Remember how I said that I'm a fair swimmer? And that I have a love/ hate relationship with water? I was pushing my boundaries of comfort, let me tell you.
What saved me from going into a full-on panic was the beauty. I fought off the jittery fears with focusing on the amazing sights around me. By marveling in this world... this amazing hidden world... that God created.
And boy, I held on. Did I mention that already?
Isn't it amazing?
Eventually, we got back to shallower parts. But I began to have another dilemma. My mask kept filling up with water and I was swallowing a bunch of it. Sea water... yuck!
I had to stop a couple of times. My guide, he stayed right there as he'd promised and helped me make adjustments. But I continued having trouble. So Tino traded his mask for mine! Didn't I say he had a generous heart? No kidding.
At this point, despite my amazement, my fears were prickling all over my boldness and I was ready to return to the safe shore. I'm a land girl, what can I say?
Tino said something that's stuck with me all these weeks later. It was quite profound, though I know he probably doesn't even realize the impact it had.
He said, "I promised to get you back, and I will. But you need to stick with me a while longer. There's a certain way we need to go to get back to shore. I'll get you there. Just keep hanging on."
I wondered, how many times have I said to God, "I've had enough of all this, Lord. I want to go back now."
And he's responded, "Trust me, child. I know the way we need to go, I'll get you there. Just hang on and trust me to get you there."
I've thought a lot about those words during this pandemic.
When staying home gets tiring, I remind myself to keep kicking. When it's hard to find things we need, I focus on the beauty and awesome things that are all around. I think of all the brave people that keep showing up to work because we need them. They're essential.
When I get discouraged and wonder if it'll ever end, I remind myself that the Lord has my path all planned out. He knows the way, I just need to hang on. He has me (and YOU!) and we won't sink. He's made it so we wont sink because of our love for Him.
If we'll just keep swimming like Dory says. Ha!
If we'll just keep going, there is a way through any problem that we face.
In troubles, trials, and set-backs, He promises to be there right beside us, showing us the way through.
No Fear. Just Hang On!
Crazy how one random trip can turn into such a deep spiritual lesson.
Actually, not so crazy. This is how the Lord usually works in my life. He isn't one to lay out a map, but he will hold out his arm and say, "Let's go. It'll be amazing. Just stick by me and see what wondrous things I have to show you, child."
The last picture (that I kind of hate to post because- good grief look at me. I can't even... ha!) is all of us who went snorkeling... Mr. Castle. Me. (ugh), Tino, and Joe. Oh, and Tristan in the bottom corner.
What an experience!
What great memories.
What an eye-opening lesson.
If you're battling fears and uncertainly of the future, I encourage you to just hang on.
As believers, we have promises that we can cling to. God doesn't lie and he'll not go back on a promise. He will get us through the tough times. He does offer protection and provision to those who love Him. And He'll get us through whatever mess we find ourselves in, if we'll only hang on tight and let him lead the way.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.