“Momma!” My son Colin yelled cross the channel. He put his hand on his head, making a fin; his way of warning me of the sharks without alarming his little sister, Bella, who sat on the paddle board as I steered her to the sandbar.
I pulled the board onto the sandbar, and we walked along picking up conk and hermit crabs while my boys remained on the other side of the channel fishing.
Some people’s ideal July 4th is getting dressed up to go out to dinner and watch fireworks, but mine is being free of makeup, looking more like a drowned rat, feeling freedom in playing with my kids on the water.
Besides, my six-year-old has a way of making me excited about something I’ve seen a million times over. What a gift to see conk, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and fish through her eyes. She notices every little detail. After an hour of meandering the sandbars, Colin waved for us to join him and his brothers, Nick, and Christian. I put her on the board with her collection of shells and started paddling over.
As soon as we reached the channel, the strong current tried to push us into the harbor. I plunged the paddle in, to fight the water’s pull and turn the board in the right direction. Bella balanced her weight by spreading her legs across the board.
While fighting to paddle us through the channel’s current, Nick yelled over his shoulder. “Momma there’s sharks!”
I saw the swirling fins but knew better than to point it out to Bella. She screamed and jerked her legs up to her chin, causing the board to wobble left and right.
“Bella, stop it! Put your legs down. You’re going to topple us.
“But Momma…Sharks!” She pointed to the fins swirling fifteen feet away.
“They’re just babies. They won’t eat you.” But I knew it was pointless, she’d watched Soul Surfer many times. She crossed her arms across her chest, scared they’d take one for a snack.
Finally, we pulled the board onto her brother’s sandbar.
When I returned home from vacation, I settled at my desk for my morning quiet time. I thought about the sharks swirling near my paddle board on Independence Day, and God used that experience to teach me a valuable spiritual lesson. Just like Bella, I’ve had my eyes on the sharks lately, instead of where I’m heading. I’ve felt the spiritual attacks, and I’ve allowed them to kill my momentum and distract me.
For me, this summer the sharks of Covid-19, a back injury, and the multiple hurts of those dear to me, have held my attention. I’ve been standing on my board, fighting off the sharks, instead of using my board, the fin, and the paddle to glide through them.
The Board: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Without the board it’s hopeless, you swim with the sharks. There will be no joyful destination.
Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, asked Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:5b-6 (ESV)
And this is how you come to the Father through Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God.” John 3:16-18 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 (ESV)
The Paddle: God’s Word
If we’re on the board without a paddle, we won’t get very far. We will wobble directionless. We’ll feel fear when the currents’ pull become strong, or we receive a bump from a shark.
I wish I could say I’m amazed at how many Christians don’t read their Bibles, but for years I was one of them. Yes, I prayed and asked God for direction, but looked to my circumstances—versus the Bible—for the answers. I wiped the dust off my Bible in time for Sunday church.
Then, there were years I grabbed a quick devotional before running out the door. I checked it off for the day. A sip of living water from a quick devotional satisfied my initial thirst but did nothing for my severely dehydrated life.
Then, there were the Bible study years. I made a good Bible student—getting my homework done. Check! I gained knowledge in history, stories, and symbolisms, but little in the way of personal direction.
Although Bible study and devotionals are important, they’re not abiding in the Word. However, what they do offer is a place to jump into scriptures. Considering what’s going on in the world, we need to be submerged in the Word, by giving God the opportunity to speak to us in a personal way.
A friend of mine challenges the men he mentors, to spend every morning in the Word until God dismisses them. Sometimes for him, that means two to three hours in the morning. We must be intentional in planning our day to include time with God, even if it means getting up a bit earlier than normal, or not scheduling anything before 10am. Whatever works for you.
Some of you may think, “How will I get everything done?” Test God in this. In my experience, I have a more productive day when I spend time abiding in the Word. I gain clarity and can more easily identify priorities. I believe it’s the same principle as tithing money. Give God your time and attention and see it multiply.
This practice of praying (and asking God to speak to you), reading, listening, and journaling what God is saying to you personally, will be beneficial in protecting you, guiding you, and building your faith in your Creator during years of uncertainty.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28 (ESV)
How do we expect to experience God in a supernatural way if we are not intentionally seeking Him in the Scriptures?
On the water, I quickly learned that without my paddle the current would’ve swept me up and I would’ve been forced to follow it; we as Christians shouldn’t follow the current, but paddle hard against it.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
The Word of God is a supernatural book that is living and active. It speaks into your life in a very personal way. So, grab your paddles. We’re going to need them. Without them, we are ill-equipped to live an abundant life.
The Fin: The Holy Spirit
Something funny happens when you jump on the board too quickly without paying attention to its construction. Your fin might be in the front, out of the water, as all the weight is distributed on the back of the board. You will find it’s much harder to paddle and won’t seem as though you’re making any progress, because the fin is not slicing through the water, guiding you in the direction you want to go. The paddle and the fin work together to get us where we are going with little effort, but the fin must be utilized correctly. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is so important when it comes to understanding the Word of God as He speaks into our spirit.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:13 (ESV)
Sharks Can Be Huge:
But what if your shark is bigger than illness or injury? My girlfriend Tracey is mourning the loss of her twenty-year-old son, who drowned in one of our lakes. To this day, she doesn’t know what happened, as the teens on the boat refuse to tell her. She’s battling a Great White, but she knows who to turn to—the One who knows all things. She told me she’s been abiding in the Word since the death of her son. She’s giving God the opportunity to administer to her broken heart, and He is.
That’s true freedom. Only the Father can break the chains of the all-encompassing hurt of losing a child. The enemy would love for us to fall off our boards in times like these, but Tracey chooses to strap herself on, and continue paddling. She’s keeping her eyes on the destination.
I hope you will too, in whatever you’re facing.
Back to Independence Day:
As the sun set on our Independence Day, Bella and I stood by Nick and Christian on the sandbar as they cast out their lines. Determined to catch a shark, Nick used a fish head for bait. My boys have fished for shark since they were little. We have video of them as middle schoolers, pulling up bull sharks by a pier in the Keys, amazing the grown men around them.
Within minutes, Nick hooked one and wrestled to get it onto the shoreline. When he pulled it up to the shore, I realized they weren’t babies after all, and so did Bella. Her eyes widened when she saw the shark was as big as our board. He thrashed about in the shallows before snapping the line, taking the bait with him.
It was only a bonnet head—known omnivores—which explains why they were swirling around us. The sandbar dipped down into three feet of water filled with tall grasses. While the sun set on the horizon, the bonnets came in to graze.
Thankfully, bonnets are not known to be aggressive, but Bella wouldn’t listen to reason, and clamored into the motorized boat for the trip into the harbor. While Colin paddled me on the board, at dusk. Maybe my six-year-old has more sense than her Momma.
I hope so.
Tammy Carter Adams is the founder and editor in chief of The Hallelujah House. She’s happily married to Jay and they have four children ages 22 to 6. In her spare time she enjoys painting, playing with her daughter, and spending time with her boys. If you’d like to connect with her directly, you can find her contact information under the “About Us” tab at the top of the page.