Saturday, July 25, 2015

Left Behind

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. – Lamentations 3:24-25

When I was seventeen, I had the opportunity to scuba dive in the Bahamas with my family and my best friend. It was an incredible trip.

A couple of years before, I took the classes to be certified to scuba dive. These classes involved some classroom work with a textbook and tests about the effect of gasses in the blood stream, different types of equipment and safety measures. Also involved was using the equipment in a swimming pool. The tests here were a little more challenging. I had to swim the length of the Olympic-sized pool underwater while holding my breath. It took me a little while to get to the point where I could swim the length of the pool underwater with no air. I was pretty impressed with myself when I could finally do it. But the next test was more challenging. I had to put on all the scuba equipment, dive to the bottom of the deep-end, take it all off, swim to the surface and then go back down, put it all back on and come back up. Upon successfully completing this test, I was joyful that only one test remained.

The final exam for certification was an open-water dive. Finally, I was going to get out of the pool and into some real water. The test was at an old quarry that had flooded. At its deepest point it was about 40 feet. The water was crystal clear but very cold. I had to don a wet suit for this dive. I finally felt like a real scuba diver. The tests were much the same – I had to ditch all equipment at one point, surface and then go back down and put it all back on.

One of the things that was stressed over and over during the whole class was that you never dived alone. You always dived with a “buddy.” Part of the final test was that one buddy had to take off his mask and the other buddy swam above him, holding on to his tank, and guided him by his underwater compass. We were given a course and then the buddy without the mask swam on that course, with the other buddy tapped on the right or left shoulder to make course corrections. My buddy – who was my best-friend – and I passed with flying colors and our parents gave us the gift of a trip to the Bahamas two years later. After making several open-water dives in the lakes of the Midwest, we were finally going to make some real dives in the crystal blue clear waters of the Bahamas!

We were able to make two major dives on that trip. We made a dive to about 30 feet and one at about 65 feet. If that doesn’t sound like much, believe me, it was! The water was as warm as a bath and the things we saw – coral reefs, huge fish of many colors. It was a scuba divers’ paradise.

On the second, deeper, dive, I remember I had trouble getting down to that depth. Because of the increasing water pressure, you have to “clear your sinuses” to compensate. Usually you either swallow (like on an airplane) or you pinch your nose through your mask and blow. I was having trouble but my buddy didn’t and he zoomed to the bottom and started exploring. I had to work very hard to get to the bottom and then catch up with him. He hadn’t noticed that I was slow in getting down to the reef and inadvertently left me behind.

Years later, my best friend and I went our separate ways. He went off to one university, I to another. He became very successful in his career working with super-computers and writing programs for the National Weather Service that made predictions of super-storms and tornados. I went into full-time ministry. We sent emails pretty regularly, and saw each other whenever we were both home for the holidays or other special occasions. He came to my wedding and when he announced he was getting married, I was all set to go to his wedding.

It was the spring of the year I was to be ordained. He asked me to perform the wedding for him and his bride. At first I joyously accepted. Then, in talking further with him, I found out that he and his fiancé had been living together for over two years. I see the Bible as very clear that this is not an acceptable start to a marriage. But they were getting married, so I figured I could talk to them about the forgiveness of Christ as he joins them together in marriage. But then they told me that she was agnostic and her parents were atheists and could I not mention God or Jesus during the ceremony?

I’m afraid that, like the time my buddy had left me on that deep-water dive in the Bahamas, I left him behind on his wedding day. I couldn’t, in good conscience, perform this wedding. But then I chickened out and didn’t even go to the wedding. I hope that I was less mature then than I am now. I can’t help but feel that I could have been more of a positive witness to my best-friend without compromising my faith.

But I can’t go back down to that dive again. It’s over and done with. There’s no going back. I live with my regret as I think about all the time that has past and I haven’t talked with my best-friend since. I hurt him and he couldn’t forgive me. I had broken the first rule of diving – I left my buddy behind.

Jesus has comforted me with his forgiveness and has brought me to a place that I believe I can better live with my regrets. I remain open to talking with my best-friend and reach out to him still. Jesus also gives me patience to wait until my buddy is ready for me.

I’ve learned to never leave a buddy behind since then. That doesn’t mean I let sinful behavior “just slide by.” Not leaving a buddy behind sometimes means the less-than-pleasant task of pointing out sin in their life – but always for their good! Always to lead them to repentance and the forgiveness freely given by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection.

I don’t do much scuba diving anymore. However, the skills I learned I still use in my ministry and my daily, everyday life. When pressure builds, Jesus is there to forgive and relieve the pressure. And I never leave a buddy behind, just as Jesus never leaves me.

You may not scuba dive, buy you can be assured that Jesus never leaves you behind, that he is always with you no matter where you go.
©2015 True Men Ministries
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