One of the poorest decisions I made was to sit through the movie Jaws. If you haven’t seen it, I envy you. The antagonist of the story is a blood-thirsty shark who has a particular taste for unsuspecting tourists. The movie ruined deep water for me. Even shallow water makes me nervous. I dip my toes in a bathtub and think, “What are you doing? These things can swim up drain pipes.” My son Steve couldn’t be more different. He goes searching for sharks. He’d probably try to ride one if he saw it, or keep it as a pet. “Dad, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” he says.
“Then I’ll stay out of the water,” I say, “I wouldn’t want to frighten them.” Steve laughs, grabs a surfboard or snorkel and dives into the waves. One stormy day in Maui, Steve decided to go for a swim. But as he pulled on his flippers, a local warned him, “Don’t go in there. The surf could slam you against the reef. Sharks can mistake you for food.” I was so glad Steve listened.
During a killer storm in 1983, a San Diego surfer ignored wise advice and plunged into the waves. When the youth suffered serious head injuries, a lifeguard risked his life to drag him to safety. Two months later, another storm collided with the coast. A surfer prepared to wade into the turbulence as lifeguards ordered him out of the water. Remarkably, it was the same kid who risked his life two months earlier! The same lifeguard who rescued him then arrested him now.
You know, I’ve been careless too. I wouldn’t risk my life at sea. But I’ve returned to sinful, damaging behaviours when God has warned me not to. I’ve jumped headfirst into the deep end of anger, bitterness, envy, and lust, despite God’s warnings to stay out of the water. When I was young, I thought God’s rules were there to steal our fun. Over time I realized the opposite was true. When the friendly local warned my son to stay out of the water, it wasn’t to steal his joy but to protect him so he’d live to snorkel another day. God warns us not to destroy our joy but to increase it. Psalm 19 tells us that God’s laws restore our soul and enlighten our eyes and that there is a great reward for keeping them.
Are you about to wade into shark-infested waters despite God’s warnings? Listen to his voice and head to safety today. If you have a shark phobia like I do, remember, more people are killed annually by vending machines than sharks. I’m just thankful.