Monday, August 24, 2009

Red flag days

All your waves and breakers have swept over me. – Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

All three of my kids and their families have vacationed on the shores of the Atlantic this summer, from Ocean City to the Outer Banks, all the way to Edisto Island, SC. I’m sure glad it isn’t this past weekend.

With Hurricane Bill churning up the surf and generating dangerous rip currents, powerful waves towering from six to 22 feet threaten life and limb. Weather forecasters warned against swimming, boating or fishing.

“In order to be safe, just stay out of the water,” The Weather Channel Web site advised. “Simple as that. It’s tempting to do, but don’t do it. You’re testing your fate.”

I have two who’d probably ignore the red flag warnings and plunge in anyway. One seems to think he’s indestructible, and the other acts as though rules and warnings are for everyone but him. The third is just the opposite—she’ll gather her chicks under her wings and batten down the hatches.

Growing up in a rather poor family in southwest Pennsylvania, I didn’t go to the beach until I was in my late teens. And even then it wasn’t an annual trip. In nearly six decades, I’ve been to the seashore about six times.

Once was right after our youngest son’s baseball team lost in the first round of the Little League state championship. Since we were only a couple of hours from the coast, were traveling in our motorhome, and my husband had optimistically taken the entire week off, we drove on over to Seaside Park, NJ. We figured it would get our minds off getting beaten so quickly and easily.

I’d had visions of strolling through gently rolling waves lapping warm sands. How was I to know what those little yellow flags snapping in the stiff sea breeze meant? I sure found out when I tiptoed into the surf after my husband and son.

There was nothing gentle about the ocean that day. The only thing rolling was me! After getting pounded into the sand one too many times, I staggered to the safety and security of the blanket. At least I got my sinuses cleaned out, I thought, blowing my nose into a paper towel.

“What does that yellow flag mean?” I asked my husband when he dripped by.

“It means caution,” he replied. “To be careful because the seas are a bit rough.”

“Now you tell me!” I choked.

“The green flag means calm seas, and the red flag danger. You don’t want to go out on a red flag day. That’s when the waves are really high, but that’s also the best time to body surf.”

Who wants to body surf? I thought. I just want to romp in a gentle sea.

I prefer the same as I live my life. At my age, I’d rather romp in gentle waves than endure the breakers on those red flag days. I’ve learned through experience that I’m not indestructible—and that rules and warnings are for me, too. I’ve come to understand that battening down the hatches and riding out the storm doesn’t mean I’m a sissy, but a sage.

Sometimes I can’t avoid staying out of the water. Circumstances leave me no choice but to plunge into the treacherous waves that sweep me off my feet and pound me into the surf. Reeling from onslaught after onslaught, I often wonder where God is while I’m being battered and beaten.

But I needn’t wonder too long. Just in time, He plucks me out of the raging seas, lovingly sets me down on soft sands, and enfolds me in the soft, secure blanket of His love—whether I “deserved” being saved or not.

And I realize that, whether I got myself in this predicament through my own foolhardiness or whether it was foisted upon me, God will always hear my cry and come to my rescue.

He will for you, too.

Thank you, Father, for being with me in the red flag days of my life. Amen.

Special-Tea: Psalm 42

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