"Why is learning to
swim so important?" I asked with a quivering voice.
"Because if you ever get thrown from a boat, you won't have to worry about drowning." My step grandfather's response caused much anxiety as we were sitting in a small boat in the middle of a huge lake. The thing I remember most about Matney was the fact that his skin seemed excessively suntanned for a man who had made a living underground mining coal--that, and of course the fact that he could swim like an Olympic gold medalist.
"Can't we just keep fishing?" I begged.
"We could," he said with a smile, "but catching fish won't save your life when you're going under." My knuckles turned white from my death-grip on the side of the boat. "I've changed my mind," I whined. "I don't want to learn how to swim."
"We'll see about that," he laughed. Then prying my fingers from the rocking boat, he quickly offered a few last-minute suggestions for staying afloat. "Don't forget to move your feet and hands in order to keep your head above the water--stay calm at all times, and remember, at the first sign of danger, I can be at your side within seconds."
Suddenly, the frigid waters engulfed my panic-stricken body after Matney threw me from the boat. Struggling to remain buoyant, I kicked my legs and waved my arms before realizing I was actually doing it--I was swimming! I'm sure it didn't look graceful, but at least I made it back to the boat without assistance.
Pulling myself into the vessel, I began parading around deck as though I had just defeated the world's greatest swimmer.
"Good job!" Matney applauded. "I knew you could do it, but to make sure it wasn't beginner's luck, let's see it again!" He then tossed me back into the freezing waters.
As Christians--sometimes called fishers of men--we need to know how to survive in case our spiritual boats capsize in the middle of an ocean of sin. The reason we are there in the first place is to save souls from the depths of sins. However, before any of us ever climb aboard a rescue vessel, we should know how to survive in the water. I'm not suggesting that we live in sin; I am simply saying we should do our level best to stay above it. But even the most careful and experienced sailor knows accidents happen, and there will be times when falling overboard cannot be helped. It's times like these that we should immediately make a conscious effort to return to the boat.
I try to apply Matney's words in my everyday spiritual life: "We could [keep fishing], but catching fish won't save your life when you're going under." How often do we witness drowning Christians trying to pull unbelievers from the deep? Remember, a lifeguard should first know how to survive long before ever attempting to save the life of another. The same can be said of the Christian--if a believer is unable to stay afloat, how on earth will he be able to save someone else?
The only way is through Jesus Christ. It's always good to know that if we have problems or struggles while trying to make it back to the boat, we have the Champion of champions waiting to jump in and rescue us. After all, Jesus is the only person who was able to stay above the treacherous depths of sin--as a matter of fact, He was even known to walk on it.