Wading Back Out

During a trip to Maui, for my sister’s wedding, I learned that I love to snorkel.

Against all odds.

When we got to the Island my brother took me to a dive shop where we rented a snorkel set and some fins. 10 minues later we walked out the back of our hotel room, waded into the water together and, aside from the actual wedding, never got out.

When I go back into the water, I don’t have to go back into the dive shop anymore, because I own my own gear.

I only need someone to go with me.

Growing up in California, I had never been snorkeling at the beach because we always went to swim and surf beaches, and the snorkeling is usually not very good in these locations.

My only previous snorkeling experience was during an ill advised trip to a theme park.

When I was a kid we visited “Marineland of the Pacific” in Palos Verdes. It was California’s first theme park, and it was kind of a pre-Sea World, Sea World. They had dolphin shows and fish exhibits and my favorite part was that Hanna-Barbera sponsored the park. This meant that as you were walking around the park you’d occasionally bump into characters like Mugilla Gorilla, or Quickdraw McGraw.

I remember going there with my family and seeing an attraction called “The Baja Reef.” The Baja Reef was the only exhibit in America that allowed guests to actually swim with salt-water fishes from the Pacific Ocean.

I begged my parents to let us swim in the reef. I promised to mow as many lawns as it took to repay them for the snorkel rental. To my surprise, they agreed. My Dad and my brother went with me to the rental counter to get our gear.

As we did this, we walked past a giant window that looked into the exhibit from under the waterline. As we passed the window I saw something out of the corner of my eye that gave me pause.

What I saw scooting past that window looked an awful lot like a shark.

I’d never seen a real shark before, but I had seen the movie Jaws, twice. In the locker room I expressed my concerns about the possibility of Jaws being in the Baja Reef with us.

My father, having just plunked down his non refundable $6.99 per snorkel set, informed me that the folks at Marineland weren’t interested in feeding me to a shark, “What kind of place puts kids in the water with sharks?”

I’ll tell you what kind of place puts kids in the water with sharks:
Marineland puts kids in the water with sharks.

I’ll also tell you this, putting kids in the water with sharks is definitely not good for business because Marineland went bust just a few years later. The ruins of the empty Baja Reef are still there.

So, looking a lot like Lloyd Bridges from Sea Hunt, we went out and got in the water which was about calf deep at first. The hosts of the attraction explained to us how a snorkel works while we touched some starfish.

I again asked my dad about the possibility of sharks and he reiterated his position to me as we pushed out into the deep water. We swam for a little bit until we came to a red bridge where for the first time my dad insisted that we were going to dive down and try to swim the bottom.

What he didn’t know was that an entire school of baby sharks about three feet long was taking advantage of the shade provided under the bridge. As we took our deep breaths and dove down into the water, we were completely engulfed in a

wriggling,
teeming,
swirling,
conference of sharks.

Sharks were all around me,
sharks touching my legs,
sharks tickling my neck.

I freaked.

I released my “anti-shark countermeasures”, surfaced, shouted “traitors”, and swam out of the exhibit without even touching the water the rest of the way.

For the next 20 years I did my best to avoid going into the ocean.

The experience had ruined me for snorkeling. It took a brochure about the relative safety of Hawaiian waters and some encouragement from my brother to get me to attempt a return to saltwater.

The “reset” was more than just an opportunity for me to have a second attempt at something that I would love, it was an opportunity to connect with people and family, creation and beauty, and to grow as a person.

This brings me to “New Year’s Resolutions”.

Every year we use the resetting of the calendar to give ourselves permission to:

Get back into shape,
Reconnect with old friends,
Go back to school,
And get our financial house in order.

For the most part we do this because things have gotten more than a little out of hand over the course of the year.

We often use the window of time between Christmas and New Year’s Day as an opportunity to imagine the kind of person that we want to be, and then resolve to become that person over the next 12 months.

A resolution is the desire for growth.

A New Year is the opportunity for it.

So who will be the brother/sister that puts the brochure in your hand, takes you to the dive shop, and wades out into the water with you?

…Because resolutions, like most growth opportunities, are rarely accomplished in a vacuum.

Pushing past the discouragement, chaos, and uncomfortability that accompany growth is much easier with a partner, especially one who was with you as the past year “got more than a little out of hand.”

We’ve only got a couple of days left before 2012 is upon us.

How will you resolve to grow?

Who do you want to be this time next year?

In Christ we are fully equipped for the success that comes when we attempt to grow beyond where we are today, but the process is not simple or completely safe.

In fact it always costs us everything we have in the now to attain all that God has for our future.

Over the years I’ve learned that it becomes much more interesting and invigorating when you have someone to wade out with.

Happy New Year to those of you who’ve waded out with me both literally and figuratively. I love you guys.

Happy New Year, Jon

3 Responses to “Wading Back Out”

  1. Sharon O December 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    WE appreciate you… and your wonderful humor too.

  2. Zoltan Fibonacci November 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Good story about the pre-Sea World carnival. At least the operators hadn’t yet thought about enslaving Orcas for profit.

    I understand that the most dangerous sharks along the beaches are bull sharks. Bull sharks have been munching on humans in saltwater and freshwater for many years.

    BTW, “teaming” should be “teeming”

    Z

    • Jon November 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks do seem to be the best “shore oriented” sharks for snacking on humans… Thanks for the spelling tip Zoltan, I changed it!

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