On Snorkeling and Stress
This week David and I took a much-needed vacation to Hawaii, and today we spent the afternoon snorkeling at a beautiful little bay in Maui.
It was miserable at first.
The tide was exceptionally high—kind of scary for this Texas girl whose favorite stroke (okay, only stroke…) is the doggy paddle. Waves were white capping behind me as I flopped around awkwardly trying to jam my feet into fins and pull the snorkel mask over my ponytail.
Heart pounding, I tried my best to swim out through the waves toward David, who was breezily, fluttering his way around the reef. But then, of course, there was the whole foggy-mask, salt-water-in-the-eye situation, which stunned me for another five minutes. Bobbing, gasping for air, and wiping my eyes I attempted to collect myself as I fearfully anticipated the next set of crashing waves.
And THAT awful feeling right there was the exact reason I went on vacation in the first place.
Because that is how I’ve felt nearly every day for the past four months—in over my freaking head. Frightened as I stare down too-big challenges. Exhausted as I unproductively thrash to get through them. I’m depleted physically, emotionally, spiritually, creatively.
It feels like I’ve been treading water for weeks. Just when I think I’ve gotten through one hectic, stressful week, I look up to see another wave of stress, worry, and busyness ragging toward me. And I’ve barely had a chance to catch my breath.
Have you ever been there? Tumbling through waves of stress, worry, fear, or exhaustion?
If you are treading water, you are not alone—I’m gasping for air right here next to ya, sister.
I want to tell you what happened today in that scenic little cove when I trusted enough to stick my face in the water and swim.
Things got quiet.
Despite the breakers crashing on the surface, under the water it was serene and beautiful and peaceful.
Face in the water, I blinked the saltwater out of my eyes and finally noticed the sea turtle, less than two feet away staring back at me! Seconds before I was panicked, ferociously treading water like my life depended on it. But with my focus on the colorful reef and a character straight from Finding Nemo, the whitecaps and the anxiety and the burning in my eyes didn’t matter any more.
Things were perfect. Tranquil. Magical. For several enchanted minutes my turtle and I quietly observed one another as we slowly, safely bobbed with the waves.
I think the same thing happens when we lock our eyes on Christ and His promise of Eternity.
An eternal perspective is the anecdote to the washing machine of hollow busyiness, stress, and anxiety. When my attention is on Heaven—a peaceful eternity spent with the One my soul was made for— things that would normally cause waves of fear, insecurity, or worry in my life are nearly unrecognizable.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
I tend to care less about what others think of me and my normally obsessive FOMO (Fear of missing out) is diminished. While I still desire to pursue excellence, that mistake I made at work seems less consequential. I’m less stressed, less fearful, and worry less about being perfect. It’s peace beyond all understanding.
I realize this all might sound a little “out there” to some of you. Heaven is rarely talked about outside of funerals.
I’ve heard it explained before like this: Think of the length of your life on Earth as equal to the amount of water in a 16 oz Ozarka bottle and Eternity is equal to the amount of water in a thousand oceans. What if what you did during your tiny 16 oz of time affected the way you spent Eternity? Would it change the way live? Would you stress over and strive for the same things? (Check out this awesome video by Francis Chan on the subject.)
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:13-15
Truthfully, Eternity and Heaven and Hell are difficult things for me to comprehend—it takes daily effort to remind myself of their importance and reality. It’s so much easier to get caught up in what’s in front of me—work, wedding season, losing weight, what to wear, what’s for dinner….Waves.
As we finished up our afternoon of snorkeling, I saw a pretty disturbing sight.
Through my goggles I could see a handful of tourists standing barefoot on the coral, inches away from a bed of bright purple vana (poisonous sea urchins). From their happy vantage point above the water, they were clueless of their peril.
So many of us live life this way.
We live focused on here and now—ignoring the bigger picture. We strive for worldly success, enviable Instagram feeds, full social calendars, Pintrest-worthy homes, healthy families, admirable legacies… We get caught up in the waves.
My prayer is that you would be brave enough to swim through the waves—whatever they may be for you—with Eternity in clear view.
How does an Eternal perspective help you overcome fears, anxiety, and stress? How does it help you prioritize your schedule? How does it affect your relationships and conversations?
I have lots of room to become braver in the way I run towards Christ. But I know it’s easier when my perspective is clear.