Getting Through the Tough Stuff

This morning as I was reflecting on the experience of the first time I went scuba diving, I realized how my experience relates to life.

When I signed up for the scuba lesson, I was excited. I was ready to do this. However, when I got into the pool, equipment on and stuck my head under water for the first time and tried to breathe I panicked. I couldn’t breathe. Of course, I could breathe but in my mind, I was under water and I couldn’t breathe. I was ready to come up and say….”this is too hard. I can’t do this.” and bail out of the pool. However, the instructor was right there looking at me telling me to stay down and breathe. I just kept thinking I can’t. I can’t. He kept saying I could and I finally took that first breath and the next one and the next one and I realized I could breathe. I was still scared but I was doing it.

I made it through the lesson, kept breathing and following the instructor. Then it was time to go out to the boat for our first dive in the ocean. Ok. This is good. I can do this. I’m ready. Just keep breathing. However, we got out to the dive site and put on all the gear again and this time he says, “just hold your mask and regulator and fall backward”. Ok. Here we go again. I can’t do this. I can’t just fall backward. It took me a few minutes. Everyone was waiting on me and again I thought. You know…I’ll just stay on the boat and let everyone else go. They shouldn’t have to wait on me. But they kept waiting and telling me to just fall backward. I finally did. I screwed up my courage and took that leap of faith and fell over and then I was in the water. I thought…Ok, the hard parts over.

But it was just beginning. When we started descending down the rope to our dive depth that fear gripped me again. I kept thinking…I can’t do this. I can’t get to the bottom. I can’t breathe. I felt trapped. But the instructor was right there with me telling me to breathe, clear my ears and keep going. I finally made it to the bottom and I just stood there. Ok. I was on the bottom but I was full of fear. I wasn’t sure I was going anywhere else. I was ready to go up.

As I was reflecting on this experience this morning I thought how often in life we are trapped by something, some fear, some insecurity, some issue, some big thing that we have to go through whether it’s in our marriage, in ourselves, in our work life, we all face these huge monsters at times that challenge us and we have to decide what to do. Are we going to stay where we are all safe or are we going to face that monster, and go THROUGH this thing to get to where we are supposed to be going?

I know I am guilty often of wanting to stay in my comfort zone where I feel safe. However, I also know that I only grow when I go out of my comfort zone and although often that growing process is uncomfortable, sometimes even painful when I get to the other side of it, I usually like what I’ve become, where I am now and looking back it doesn’t seem so bad.

As I stood on the bottom of the ocean floor with everyone else scuba-ing along looking at stuff I couldn’t do it. I was stuck right there in that spot. I wasn’t moving. The instructor I think saw the look of terror in my eyes and he swam over and took my hand. That was it. He just took me by the hand and started leading me through the reef. He pointed out fish here and there and I just kept thinking, “breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe”. Finally, I started seeing the fish and the coral and all the stuff down there and stopped thinking so much about breathing and started enjoying the experience. The instructor then handed me off to my husband and I continued the dive holding his hand. I know that I couldn’t have made it through that experience alone. If the instructor hadn’t taken my hand to guide me and then passed me off to my husband to continue to lead me through that dive, I would have stood there on the bottom all alone waiting to go back to the surface and the safety of the boat and dry land.

I thought this morning how much that experience is like life. We aren’t meant to go through the tough stuff alone. Sometimes all we need is someone else there, to hold our hand to help us get through it. Yes, it is something we have to go through on our own but having the comfort of a more experienced person who knows we can make it through if we just keep going is all we sometimes need to get through. In my case, my husband is a certified diver. The instructor was qualified to take me through the first steps. He had all the training necessary. He took my hand. Then he passed me off to my husband. My husband is a certified diver and he’s had experience diving. He continued to hold my hand until we got back to the surface. All I needed to get through was someone who knew there was something better on the other side to help me see the way.

I’d like to tell you that my next day’s lesson and dive were much easier and I jumped right in with both feet and had the best experience of my life but I’d be lying. The next day’s lesson required me to take off my mask in the pool (salt water pool) and swim 20 feet or so with no mask on. Once again that fear of I can’t do this took over and I thought…ok this is where I fail. I have reached the point where I can go no further. The instructor said that I should close my eyes and he would hold my hand and all I had to do was breathe and let him lead me and when he squeezed my hand I could put my mask back on. Ok. So I tried and I made it. WHEW….glad that’s over!

Then we went out on our second dive. We went back to the same place so that was nice. It didn’t take me as long to get out of the boat this time but the instructor today said that all those exercises we did in the pool I had to repeat in the ocean! WHAT? No one said that to me before. I have to take my mask off in the ocean! You’ve got to be kidding me.

So down we go again this time with no rope! Just like life. If I only had that rope I could make it to the bottom but now I”m having to sink on my own? Not so easy. But I made it. It was easier this time on the bottom I wasn’t as afraid. I did have to keep telling myself to breathe but I took my husband’s hand and started looking around at what was there and I was doing great. Until…..

The instructor looked at me, pointed and said follow me. Oh no. The test. He took me off to the side and put me through all the exercises I had to complete to pass the course. I wasn’t sure I could do it. He just kept pointing at me and issuing instructions and I just kept following them. I successfully flooded my mask and emptied it again. I made it. That was the hardest thing for me to do. To be on the ocean floor, completely blind and relying only on the training I had been given to get me through this ordeal.

Again, how like life that is. God gives us the training and he says do this and do this and everything will be ok but then we’re faced with some challenge and we have to just keep doing what we’ve been taught and if we do, then we make it through.

After I completed my exercises I swam back to meet my husband, took his hand and continued the dive. I’d like to say I conquered all my fears and I’m ready to go dive anywhere with anyone but the truth is I’m not. I’m ready to dive, I’m willing to dive but right now I still need the comfort and safety of holding my husband’s hand as we dive. There were a few times during our dive where I let go and ventured out on my own but I knew that he was right there only a few feet from me. I knew that he was watching out for me even if I couldn’t see him and whenever I needed him all I had to do was turn around and take his hand and he was there to get me through it.

Just as my husband didn’t leave me alone on the bottom of the ocean floor I know that God doesn’t leave me either. Even when I can’t see Him I know He’s there watching out for me and all I have to do is turn to Him and reach for Him and He will take my hand and guide me.

Life may sometimes be hard. Sometimes we have to go through the tough stuff to get to the next level but God has provided for us friends to help us through, to hold our hands, to encourage us, to let us know we can get through this and He is always there waiting for us when we need Him. Just like my diving experience, it can be difficult. It can be frightening but what’s on the other side when we face those fears is worth it.

On our second dive, we saw a sea turtle! That was really cool. At one point on the dive, I was remembering all the Imax movies I’ve sat through watching others dive and thinking how cool it would be to actually be there. At one point I actually thought I was watching one of those movies. I completely forgot that I was under water! Then I realized, I wasn’t watching someone else doing this I was ACTUALLY doing it! That was worth it!

Living your life, with all the ups and downs all the challenges and victories is much more enjoyable than playing it safe and staying in the comfort of your own little world. Sure there are times I’d like to just hide in my room and never come out again because if I go out something might hurt me. But if I hide in my room forever I will miss out on so much of the other wonderful things life has to offer. Yes, that relationship might cause you to get hurt…but you might also feel more love than you ever thought possible. We have to take the good with the bad, the joy with the pain and I have come to believe that if you have only joy and never experience pain then you can’t fully experience the joy. If all you ever know is happiness how can you even know you are happy? I believe it takes both our good and our bad experiences to make us truly understand all that life has to offer. Only when you’ve faced your fear, gone through that terrible tragedy can you feel the exhilaration that comes with the victory! No pain…no gain. There might be a bit of truth in that.

Just don’t forget….to reach out and take someone else’s hand especially if you’ve been through it yourself. Sometimes all we need is someone else to keep us heading in the right direction, reminding us to breathe!