Summer is an interesting time at Pathway. It is a time for our annual lakeside baptism service, which was very powerful this year with several dynamic stories of God’s grace. It is a time for the excitement of SonZone and SonZone Jr., along with mission trips for our students. It is also a time for vacations.
I asked one vacationer where she had traveled, though the dark tones that highlighted her face gave it away. She said they’d been to the beach. I asked, “How was the water?” She said, “I don’t know, we didn’t go in. We don’t like sharks.” Now, it could just be me, but it seems that going to the beach, but not going into the water, would be like going to Kennywood, but not riding the Jack Rabbit, or going to Oram’s, but not getting a donut!
However, I understand the fear of sharks is real. It seems it all started with the movie “Jaws” and the resounding adjacent bass notes (ba-dum, ba-dum) letting you know a shark was on the prowl and that someone was about to become a meal. And today we have the Discovery Channel’s recently concluded Shark Week that reminds us how deadly they are and how they can swim even faster than Michael Phelps. Sharks are ominous creatures and no one wants to get killed by one. The irony is, almost no one ever is.
I did a little research and discovered there are only a handful of fatal shark attacks in the world in a year’s time. As odds go, that makes it an EXTREMELY rare event. “How rare?” you might ask. Well, let’s just say you are far more likely to die falling out of bed than being attacked by a shark. There’s a higher chance you’ll meet your demise by a falling coconut or a falling vending machine than a shark (Just when you thought it was safe to get a Mountain Dew …). And if you ever find yourself at a vending machine under a coconut tree — run, do not walk away!
As for the proverbial rarity of being struck by lightning, you are actually 75 times more likely to get zapped than bitten. You’re even more likely to be injured by a toilet than a shark! Who knew? In fact, one of the few things that is less likely than death by shark is winning the lottery. Well, that and the turnpike reducing toll prices.
It’s fascinating to me that though swimming in the ocean is even safer than walking down the sidewalk, people have such a fear of it that it keeps them from the water on a beach vacation. They’d rather just dig in the sand, which ironically, is also statistically more deadly than shark attacks!
The reason for avoiding the water is not because the threats are real, it is because they are perceived to be real. The truth is that perception is a powerful motivator in what we do and don’t do.
The power of perception is one thing when it keeps us from vacation activities, but it’s something else altogether when it influences our behavior in more critical realms. What happens in your life when you perceive that your friends or work associates are not going to respond well to a word you might speak about your faith? For many of us it influences what we say, or may keep us from saying anything at all. Or in relationships, our perceptions tempt us to draw conclusions that haven’t been tested anywhere else than in our own minds. As a result, we bail on the relationship before we ever give it a chance.
And what about when it comes to fulfilling God’s unique and adventurous call? You might tell yourself you’re not capable of living that life (ba-dum), or that the work would be too hard (ba-dum), or that God can’t use you for something that big (ba-dum), or that you’re sure you’d mess it up in some way or another (ba-dum, ba-dum). So you resist God’s call and it’s no more rational than expecting death by shark — only for you it’s death by doubt.
What we need to do is tell ourselves the truth about who we are and whom we serve. When we perceive we’re in trouble if we venture into deeper spiritual waters, we need to remind ourselves that God is the One calling us there and that He promises to go before us. We need to remind ourselves that He is the One who carries on to completion the work He starts in us. We need to remind ourselves that what seems so deadly to us is probably just misinformation from our adversary intended to keep us on the shore and away from the action.
It’s time to stop letting our false perceptions influence our behavior and steal the joy that comes from fully engaging in God’s plan for our lives. It’s time to stop letting our fears of what could be get in the way of swimming in the promises of God.
It’s time to jump in.
The water’s fine!