When our sons were between the ages of 8 and 12, we had the opportunity to introduce them to snorkeling. I had only been recently introduced to it myself and I had just loved it. Loved it like Scrooge loved money before that auspicious Christmas Eve. Just give me more! Loved it like bighorn sheep love mountains. I felt so at home there. It was a physical representation of a spiritual reality. Non-swimmers on shore had no idea of the very real world that remained unseen to them. Venture in and the reality of an underwater realm was as true as the existence of a spiritual one if you would but choose to see. I was beyond excited to introduce my sons to the wonders of a world they had never been exposed to before and one that I came so alive in!
The colors of the water. The feel of the swell as it raised and lowered your body on the surface. The beauty displayed in the mysterious fish. The delicate differences in their shapes. The splendor of God’s creative handiwork there to discover with awe and joy. AMAZING.
After the boys had their snorkeling gear on we entered the water and I warned them to stay clear of the coral. The coral and rocks were sharp. They needed to be certain to swim over them and not let the waves push them into them and thereby shred their tender skin. On I went. Coral cuts are really painful. It would hurt. Make sure there is enough water between you and it to swim over without danger. Oh – I continued – sometimes you will see holes in the underwater rocks and you might want to explore them by sticking your hand into them. Don’t do it!!!!! An eel may live in that hole! It could bite your finger off!
Eels? They asked with horrified eyes. Don’t worry, I lamely assured them. You don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. Eels? They asked again with undiminished worry. What do they look like? I calmed them down. They look like snakes only fatter. Now, let’s go enjoy this!!!!
In their watchful posture swimming with fear over coral and scanning every stone for a hole and making sure that every piece of waving seaweed wasn’t actually a snake coming to bite their finger off, I don’t think they saw a fish. They didn’t like snorkeling very much. In fact, it was years before they did.
And you’re welcome.
And whoops. My emphasis on what to be alert for regarding danger overshadowed my emphasis on what to be on the alert for regarding beauty and goodness. I had assumed they would be overwhelmed by the wonder. The warnings were, to my mind, simply an important side note. But my way of presenting it to them shifted their gaze from the beauty to discover to the threat to be avoided. It is a mistake I have made in many areas stemming from my mother’s heart that wants to shield others from pain.
Spiritual warfare is as real as that underwater wonderland. We are instructed to be on the alert, not unaware of the devil’s schemes. We are to live prepared for battle wearing the full armor of God because we are living in the midst of the most important battle ever waged. It is vital that we stay girded up, putting on love, vigilant against the enemy’s incessant lies and accusation. He is a divider who comes to steal, kill and destroy and he isn’t very nice about it.
AND. The beauty of God is vastly more breathtaking than the ugliness of Satan. The power of the Almighty is immeasurably more so than the attempts of the enemy to usurp Him. God is a warrior. He is our Victor. He is matchless. He is supreme. He is unrivaled. He has won. Love trumps hate. Goodness smothers wickedness. Mercy triumphs over judgment. We are to live alert to the moves of the Holy Spirit, following and obeying Him wherever He leads. Our gaze is fixed upon His beauty with breathless anticipation while at the same time we remain alert to snakes in all their many guises.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. Love overcomes fear. Stay clear of the coral but with eyes open to truth and wonder, enjoy the swim.