Just Go With The Flow

By Marcy Barthelette

A force much stronger than I grabbed hold of my body as I was enjoying a swim in the Atlantic Ocean just off Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I was powerless to fight the strong current that pulled me away from the beach and into a territory I hadn’t sought. For an instant, panic encroached. Somewhere in my consciousness, a quiet thought occurred, “Just go with the flow.” It’s what I’d heard experts recommend in similar situations and I knew I was an excellent floater, so I just let go. The current twisted my body and tossed me around quite a bit and in a few seconds which seemed like hours, it spit me out and I was able to swim back to shore. Sometimes swimmers who are caught in rip currents are not so blessed as I was. Panic can turn a pleasant swim into a tragedy in only seconds. The United States Lifesaving Assn (USLA) estimates 80% of its rescues are related to them.

A rip current is defined as a strong flow of water running from a beach back to the open ocean, sea, or lake, and any beach with breaking waves can develop rip currents. While many people connect them to weather, rip currents are actually created by the topography of the beach. This will encompass areas outside the water, such as dunes or marshes, as well as features within the water including sandbars, piers, and reefs. Rip currents often form around these features; in gaps between sandbars, piers, or breaks in a reef. The obstacles block the natural flow of the water back toward the ocean creating a new path for it to follow. Once it finds an opening, it’s much like a drain in your tub or a pool. The rip current flows faster than the water on either side of it and once it passes the obstacle, it loses pressure and stops flowing.

By letting my body go with the flow and not allowing myself to panic, I rode out the current and was able to swim safely back. I imagine I found myself in a short-lived rip current. Had it been a more persistent one, I may have been washed further out to sea and found it difficult to return on my own.

Although I had heard experts advise swimmers as to how they should react when caught in river currents back home in Missouri, I knew nothing about rip currents even though I felt comfortable swimming in the surf. In fairness though, my surf swimming had always been along the much calmer gulf coast. Even so, I thought I was ready for the Atlantic. And besides, it was really hot that day and the wind blew so hard that it drove the sand into your skin. I just wanted some relief from my discomfort and those beautiful waves were so inviting.

You could say I was careless, and you’d probably be right, but I’ll go with not being properly educated about ocean currents. The fact remains that at the moment when a decision had to be made, a quiet whisper crossed my consciousness and I truly believe that it was the still, small voice of God speaking to me. He said to just let go. He had my back once again. I’ve kept Him pretty busy during my lifetime.

This emotional event in my life calls to mind Peter, my favorite biblical character, who for an instant walked on the water toward Jesus.

 But then he noticed the storm raging around him, he lost his focus and had to be rescued.

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Matthew 14:29-30

Just as Peter often turned his focus in the wrong direction, I was so focused on getting away from the heat and the driving sand, that I blindly swam into unfamiliar waters without proper research. I, too, had to be rescued. And my rescue came  in the form of a subconscious whisper.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. I Kings:11-12                  

If you’re anything like I am, we all need to listen to that quiet voice much more often. Don’t let the noise of the world drown out the most important whispers and don’t let fear keep you from trusting. Just go with the spiritual flow of the one who always has your back.

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