Sink or swim

Published 7:32 pm Wednesday, October 2, 2019

I am a rather inadequate swimmer.

People look at me and think I must float very well. I actually float much like a rock, or a chunk of concrete.

Add to this anti-flotation ability the absurd lack of ability to propel myself in the water unless I push off from something, and you’ve got a cinder block dropping straight down, not even making any headway.

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In addition to this, I have a very real, panic-inducing dread of having my head completely submerged.

Once, during a family trip to Port St. Joseph, Florida, I borrowed a snorkeling mask and determined that I was going to get past my fear of having my head underwater. The mask would allow me to see more-or-less clearly, and the snorkel would allow me to breathe without panic.

I practiced breathing wearing the mask as I stood in the beautiful waters of the bay. Once I had worked up my courage and mental stubbornness, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes (I don’t know why) and sank into the waters with most of my head submerged.

I opened my eyes and a pufferfish was puffed up staring at me just inches away from my mask. All puffed up, it had probably been startled by my sudden movement and “inflated.”

The fish was probably half the size of my fist, even in its defensive balloon state. But it startled me, since I was not expecting to see a fish that close to my face so immediately.

I jerked upright, which caused me to lose my footing and fall over backward, plunging myself underneath the waters like a man being forcefully baptized by an invisible John the Baptist.

My memory is kind of hazy at this point, but I remember trying to right myself, blow the water out of my snorkel and get my head back above water. Granted, I was in water no deeper than about 4 or 5 feet, but I was confident in myself — I knew I could drown in a teaspoon of beautiful Gulf water.

I crawled onto the beach like a shipwreck survivor and decided my snorkeling adventures were over.

Pufferfish — 1

Concrete block — 0

In spite of my non-swimming background, however, I love the water.

I enjoy being on a boat even if I’m a bit worried about what would happen if I fell overboard. Is this lifejacket really strong enough to keep my head above the waves?

I’m not talking about cruise ships or yacht-sized vessels. I love being in a motorboat or a canoe. There’s something about it that I can’t explain. But I’m sitting down the whole time. I don’t like getting up and walking around in a boat.

“Don’t rock the boat” is a very real, appropriate adage here.

I can’t help thinking about the 12 disciples of Jesus, in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, known for its sudden, unpredictably violent storms. A storm rocked their boat and these seasoned fishermen and veterans of the sea were afraid their boat was going to capsize.

Until Jesus told the water and the storm to be quiet and leave them alone.

But he didn’t have to do that. He asked them was it not enough for them that he was in the boat with them? Couldn’t they have courage knowing he was right there?

And I think about Peter being told by his Lord to get out of the boat, to walk on top of the waves and come to Jesus.

Could I have kept my eyes on Jesus and not worried about sinking? Could I have had enough courage to trust that all would be well because Jesus was in the boat with me, after all?

Whether I live or die is in Jesus’ hands. But if I’m going to live, I need to do it with confidence in him, not in my own inabilities.

Sink or swim, if he’s in control of my life, all will be well.

Brett Campbell can be reached at or 601-265-5307.