I’ve almost drowned 4 times. That 4th one was the most embarrassing because I was not only a lifeguard—but a lifeguard trainer. In my defense, there was a rip tide involved. Here’s what happened.

I was at Ventura Beach, California, with some friends—many of whom were lifeguards. As a Red Cross lifeguard trainer, I had certified the lifeguards I was with.

While I love the ocean, at that time I had little experience with it. I didn’t notice that an undercurrent was moving me closer to the end of rock pilings. Ventura Beach has piles of rocks that stick out into the tide perpendicular to the shore. I now know that the end of a rock piling is extremely dangerous because rip tides develop when the waves hit the wall of rocks. 

I did know that if I were caught in a current, I should swim across the current—not directly against it. However, I was not aware that I was caught in the current until it pulled me into the spin-cycle at the end of the rock piling. The water was not excessively deep, but the rolling waves pulled me under. The waves then spewed me out, slammed me against the rock, and then pulled me back down. I went around and around getting more banged up. Every time my head came above the water I had just a moment before being sucked down again. I would have loved to scream, but I only had a moment to suck in more air before getting pulled back under. 

When I realized I could not break free, I started to panic. Each time the waves shot me up above the surface I waved my arms like crazy while getting my quick breath of air. At first, the only person who saw me was my assistant lifeguard trainer on shore. She saw my frantic waving—so she waved back. It never occurred to her I was in trouble. 

All of my flailing finally caught the attention of one of my co-workers. He wasn’t sure what the problem was—but he knew something didn’t look right so he moved towards me. As he got closer, he realized I was caught by the rip tide. He grabbed my arm and pulled me free from the current. 

I was shaken (and embarrassed). I gushed my thanks to Tim who brushed it off as no big deal. 

Why do I tell you this story? 

Reason 1—Because I want you to be on the lookout for people in danger of any kind. 

You know those people who appear strong after years of walking by faith? Don’t assume they don’t need you to reach out to them. You have no idea what undercurrents may be wreaking havoc in their lives right now. 

Reason 2—Because it’s summer. 

If you’re headed to the beach, beware of rip tides! They are the reason for most of the rescues on beaches. Be careful out there. 

Reason 3—Because of Memorial Day.

That friend who pulled me to safety at Ventura Beach signed up for active duty after 9/11. Army Spc. Timothy D. Watkins died October 15, 2005, serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Thank you, Tim, for saving my life at Ventura Beach. That was just one of the many ways you made your vapor count. 

You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor 

that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

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