In the past week a horrible tragedy occurred in our area that jogged my memory of something I learned way back in seminary (church school in high school for those who don't know what that is for people in these here parts).
Four men were boating in a reservoir with some of their younger children. According to the news reports, one of the men shoved another man overboard in jest, not knowing that man could not swim. And he didn't have a life jacket on. Though there were life jackets in the boat, none of the men were wearing them.
As it became apparent the man in the water was drowning, one by one his adult friends jumped in to save him, all four of them, leaving the children alone in the boat to drift away.
One of the children found a cell phone and called for help and they were all rescued safe and sound.
The four men all drowned.
What a sad event. My heart just goes out to their families. Drownings happen, but four men drowning in this manner isn't common and they were husbands and fathers and I feel so sad for their loved ones.
But, it reminded me of something my very favorite seminary teacher would say to our class all the time.
If someone is drowning, throw them a life preserver or a rope from the safety of the shore. Don't go in after them because a drowning person's reaction is to pull you down with them. You must be a very strong swimmer to not be pulled under and drown also and (this is the important part) none of you can swim that well.
Don't for a second think I am critiquing what happened in this real life situation because I am not. I can't say what happened there and I don't judge any of it for a second. The situation just reminded me of that particular lesson.
My teacher meant that in a spiritual or emotional sense, not a physical sense.
Though, truth be told, if any of you were drowning and I was nearby, I would not go into the water for you. Why? Because I am a horrible swimmer! I hate water in my face and I am always afraid I'll lose my glasses or contacts and be blind in the water which just sounds like an awful plan. If you were drowning you would surely pull me under and take me with you because I am just not a strong swimmer, pure and simple.
In an emotional or spiritual sense we run across situations like this all the time. One of our friends is having some sort of problem and we want to "save" them. That fact of the matter is that if we dive into that deep water after them, odds are good that in their panic they WILL pull us under and we will both drown.
But, if we stay put and throw them that life preserver and pull them in from our safer, higher, SOLID ground, we will be safe and IF they hold on tight, they will too. In addition, from dry land others will come and assist us in pulling our endangered friend in where they can't help us when we dive into that water lest they drown too.
I can guarantee that none of us are strong enough emotional or spiritual swimmers to dive in and save another. We need to stay put on the shore and just hope when we throw that rope or preserver that our drowning friend will grab hold.
I don't know that I have more to say about that than what I just said.