Fear and Faith — Diving in the Dark

I woke up this morning thinking about my last scuba dive. We were in Hawaii and heard that there was a night dive with manta rays. The kids were all excited about this opportunity, and I admit it sounded like an amazing experience. There were, however, a few problems.

All of us are newly certified divers, so the idea of diving in the dark is one that is exciting but also instills fear in me. Although I’ve been on 8 or 9 dives now, every time I get in the water, I have the same experience. Just standing there on the edge of the boat with all my equipment on causes a sense of fear to rise up in me. It doesn’t matter that I dove yesterday and everything went well the courage it takes to step off the edge of that boat trusting in all your equipment the fear of the unknown, the what if, the fear that something might go wrong begins to overtake me and I freeze.

Fortunately for me, I have been blessed to always be with a dive guide who has a lot of patience with me as they wait for me to take that giant step off the boat. Everyone else is in the water ready to go, and I am the last one. Finally, I get up the courage to take that step, and I plunge into the water. I always pop back up to the surface with my BCD doing its job and making me float. I check all my equipment, adjust everything, check to see if I have the proper weights and we’re good to go.

Now comes the next part…putting my face in the water and breathing through my regulator. It doesn’t matter that this is my 9th dive. It doesn’t matter that we dove earlier in the day at this very same location so I know how far we will be descending and I am familiar with what we will see when we get to the bottom. The fear wells up in me again of breathing under water and trusting all this equipment to do its job. I know there are plenty of people going down with me that have their equipment and I know how to buddy breathe and I’ve practiced all of these things many times. I don’t even think it’s the fear of something going wrong that bothers me it is the fear of breathing under water. Putting your head under water and taking that first breath is the hardest thing for me to do every time. I usually have to try two or three times to do it. I will put my regulator in and submerge my head and take one or two breaths and then I start breathing heavily again almost hyperventilating and I have to come up to the surface and take a few breaths. I try it again, and the same thing happens. Finally, I am able to overcome the fear and control my breathing and slowly begin descending to the bottom.

As I was reflecting on all of this this morning I realized how much that experience describes my experience with faith and trust in God. My circumstances right now aren’t what they should be. Some things in my life aren’t what God said they would be and there is nothing I can do about that. God told me to do something and said, “Trust me…I will take care of the other.” So I did. I jumped in with both feet. I submerged myself and I trusted God. But things didn’t work out. God promised me something and I trusted Him and yet His promise has not come to be. This makes me fearful. This makes me question everything I know about God. The fear overwhelms me at times and I feel like I need to come up for air and breathe. Just like spitting the regulator out of my mouth and gasping for air I feel like spitting God out and grasping for something else….but what?
When my three oldest kids and I went to dive with the manta rays, it presented many challenges. My two oldest sons who were 18 and 13 were ready to go. They were excited about pushing the envelope and testing themselves and diving at night. My 12-year-old daughter and I, however, weren’t so excited. We wanted to dive with the mantas, but we were fearful of diving at night and of being with large creatures under water.

We went out in the afternoon and dove the site even saw one manta ray. We surfaced to spend our hour above water, and we ate. We talked with the other people on the boat, and we had a great time. As we watched the sun set, we began to discuss the dive and what to expect. It all sounded great. It all sounded like an experience we would never forget. We were all getting excited. There were 16 other boats there, and many other people were diving, and many were going to snorkel. We were told to wait for the signal. We asked what that signal would be and were told it was the screams of the snorkelers. You see the snorkelers get in the water earlier than anyone else. They have an unlimited supply of air so they get in and wait for the mantas to show up. The divers, however, have a limited air supply and so they wait until the mantas are here before they even get in the water. We began to hear the screams of the snorkelers, so we all geared up.

As we listened to some people squealing with delight and other people sounding like they are being pushed beyond their comfort zone, my daughter and I were putting on our gear and talking about what to expect. She said, “Mom I’m not sure I can do this. I want to, but I’m kind of scared.”

I told her I too was scared and not sure I could do this. I told her it was her decision. If she wanted to go we would go. If she wanted to stay on the boat, I would stay on the boat with her or if she wanted we could snorkel with the snorkelers. I would be there with her regardless of her decision. She thought about it for a minute and said, “Mom I don’t think I will ever get this opportunity again. I think it will be really cool. So let’s do it.”

So we agreed that we would go and she knew that I would be right there with her and if it got too much for her we would come back to the surface.

She has really surprised me. Her first dive she was fearful of jumping into the water but now she just steps right off the boat. I, however, still needed some time to adjust. I was doing better fighting my fear but it was still there. Finally I took that giant step off the boat into the water. We checked our equipment and then came the real test…descending in the dark.

I looked at my daughter and asked her if she wanted to hold my hand. She said yes. So in one hand we each held our flashlight with it pointing skywards and with the other hand we held onto each other as tightly as we could. We deflated our BCDs and began sinking to the bottom. As we began our descent the darkness closed in on us. Suddenly all we could see was each other. Her eyes behind her mask were open as wide as they could go and she looked scared. I’m sure I had the same look of fear on my face as well. We could only see each other and we were so fearful that we didn’t even look around. We had no idea how close we were to our group we only knew that we were heading to the bottom.

There were a few challenges of pressurizing our ears while holding a flashlight and onto each other but we managed to work that out. We finally made it to the bottom. It was only 35 feet, so that added a level of comfort, but it was dark, and at that moment we were felt like we were the only people down.

As we settled on the bottom, I began to worry about getting lost, so I looked around and saw our group and our dive guide. What a relief. We are not down here alone. Our guide lead us to what he referred to as “the campfire”. All the divers sit around in a circle on the bottom of the ocean all holding flashlights, and it really does look like a campfire. We found a place and we all settled in. Finally, I was able to look around for my other two children and saw that they were safe. I am still fearful, but I am managing to do what needs to be done. I’ve found my spot, sitting on a rock and found out that I couldn’t stay down. My left leg wanted to float, and it kept knocking me over. Finally, with some help of my dive guide, I got a large rock and placed it in my lap so that I could stay down.

When I finally looked around I was amazed at what I saw. These huge creatures the largest of which was 16′ across were swimming all around us. They were so amazing to watch. There were 26 with us that night and they were all in the same area gliding back and forth, rolling and flipping and flying through the water. It was hard to believe that I was underwater with these creatures and that this wasn’t some Imax film. We were really there. This was as real as it gets.

I don’t know if it was the cold or the fear but I was shaking and I shook the entire time we were underwater. I was terrified to be there but mezmerized by what I saw. I knew we were supposed to be able to stay down for 45 minutes. I checked my guages. Five minutes had passed. How was I going to survive another 40 minutes of this? Yes it was amazing but I had to keep telling myself…you are NOT going to die. Everything is alright. The kids are fine, there are plenty of dive masters down here. Everything is going to be alright.

As I think about this story, I cannot help but compare it to my current situation which appears hopeless. I know I did what God wanted, and I know that I heard Him, and I know that He said He would take care of everything, but at this point in life , it does not appear that He is anywhere around. Although I could not see the air in my tanks, I had to trust that it was there. I had to trust that all my equipment would work properly. I couldn’t see it. I could see the gauge that indicated there was air in my tank but I couldn’t really see the air. I cannot see God at work in this situation right now, but I have to trust in His word that He said He would take care of it and He will. But I have to admit sometimes it is hard to trust what you cannot see, and fear takes over.

I feel like I’ve just entered the water and everything around me is going black. I know what is supposed to be on the other side, but right now all I see is the blackness that surrounds me. I have to decide if I’m going to give into the fear and get back into the boat or if I am going to continue to descend with God and let Him guide me to what He has for me. I have to trust that God is right here with me going through this holding my hand and not letting go of me. Just like I would not leave my daughter in the water and let go of her hand until she gave me the ok signal and she let go, I have to believe God is holding my hand as well and that He is right here with me and will stay with me until I no longer need to hold His hand.

I have to say some days I want to get back in the boat. I want the safety and comfort. I don’t want to face this fear. I don’t want to push through this and endure and suffer for Christ. I just want what God promised me, and I don’t see it. And then there are the temptations. The grass is greener syndrome. Well look over there. You could have everything you want if you just go this way. Everything you desire is right over here. Come on over here, and it can all be yours.

I am reminded of another boat that was with us on our dive. It was a nice live aboard yacht. As we were waiting for the sun to set it pulled up and we all drooled over that boat. It sure looked nice. Wouldn’t it be fun to spend a week living on that and diving every day. Wow. The captain of our boat told us when it pulled up that they serve steak and lots of great food over there. We were told that if we surfaced and swam to the wrong boat, we would have to do the “swim of shame” back to our boat. However, he told us if we went to that boat by mistake he would allow us back on board but we had to raid their pantry and bring back steaks with us.

I think about that other boat and how much fun it would have been to swim over and get aboard it if only for a few minutes. But what would I have lost if I did? My chilldren were on this boat. My things were on this boat. The other boat sure looked like fun, but I would have had to give up everything I had at that moment to get on board that other boat. It wasn’t worth the price it would cost. I couldn’t abandon my children and leave them behind just to enjoy the nicer boat. It is the same way with the temptations presented to me now. God has promised me steak. He has promised me my heart’s desire. He has promised that He would take care of this situation. Those other opportunities sure look nice but giving up what God has promised just isn’t worth it to me. Sure it might be nice for a little while, and it might even be easier than things are now but would the price that has to be paid be worth it? I don’t think so.

Just as my daughter and I made it to the bottom and joined our group, we choked back our fear and made it through the entire 45 minutes that we were underwater, I am trusting that God will see me through this dark time in my life and that He will continue to provide me with the air I need while I’m here. I hope and pray that it ends soon, but until it does, I will have to trust in His word.

The kids and I really enjoyed our manta dive. When we watch the video of the experience, my daughter and I are still amazed that we did that. We were there. That was us. We are both glad that we went and we would do it again. I know that when I get to the end of this current situation and look back on it, I will be glad that I stayed, glad that I faced my fear and waited on God. I know I will also be amazed that I was able to survive the ordeal. Some days it feels like I am being crushed to death and I will not survive one more day. But each day God gives me just what I need to get through this day and to hold onto hope for just one more day and to continue to trust Him for just one more day. Just like I kept checking my gauges to see that I still had air and that my time was not yet up. I wish I had a gauge I could check with God to see that my time is almost up and that I still have air left but I cannot. THIS test requires much more faith than that dive did. All I have to stand on is one word from God and the stories from the Bible that show that He is faithful.

I was extremely discouraged recently and asking God just to give me a new word to stand on. Let me know how much longer, or that this is still His plan. I cried out for several days asking God to speak to me and to give me a new word something I could hold onto something new to let me know that He was working. As I was talking to my counselor, I felt I should share with him the song that was written for me and my children. As I read the words to him, God finally spoke to me. As I read, “You are my hope when all hope is gone. Your loves never ending you’re leading me on. You will be faithful, you will be faithful you’re my God.” God spoke. He said…”I gave you a word….I gave you a word in a song so that you could remember it and never forget it.” I will be faithful.

So I leave you with that. When your fear surrounds you and life looks extremely dark, and all you have is a tiny light it is going to take everything you have to keep trusting in God. You have a choice to make. You can either bail out, choose safety and get back in the boat or you can trust that God is faithful and that He will do all that He said He would do and you can keep descending and see the beautiful show that God has prepared for you when you reach your destination.

I wish I could tell you based on my situation that it is all worth it but right now I cannot. All I can do is draw from the experience of diving with manta rays and say…THAT was definitely worth it and I would do it again. Yes I would still be fearful, but I would do it again. And this current situation is a constant test of everything in me, but I am trusting and believing that my God is faithful and that He hasn’t forgotten me and that He is working even if I cannot see him.

My prayer is that whatever situation you are facing in your life right now that you can find the courage to put your trust in God and just hold on a little bit longer. You will never see a miracle if you give up. For something to be a miracle it has to seem impossible.

My boys have said they want to dive with sharks next. 🙂 God help me!