When I was 18 years old I was determined to find out whether or not God was real. Something in me needed to find out if He was real because I didn’t want to waste my life operating outside of what He had for me. As I prepared for several years of university and considered my future, I was somehow aware that His “realness” could change everything for my life. That year, God met with me in so many ways that I could never again doubt His existence, and I made a decision to follow Jesus all the days of my life. Not only did I want to become a Jesus follower, I was prepared to serve him for the rest of my life.
After spending two months in Brazil, I was enjoying some time with friends on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro at the Copacabana Beach. For a few days in a row, we would enjoy running into the ocean and swimming past where the waves were breaking and experience floating in the warm, salty water. On one particular day we kept to our same routine; bursting out of the hot, sweaty van as fast as possible and sprinting to the beach. We dropped our belongings and clothing on the sand and headed into the ocean as fast as we could.
Surprisingly, the waves were fierce and smashed us to our knees. It didn’t take long for me and my friend Helena to realize that something was different about the ocean on this day.
We quickly agreed we better get out of there and did our best to find our footing, but every time the waves came crashing down they pummelled us. I remember the scraping of the sand actually hurting when our body smashed into it, and how shocked we were that we couldn’t just easily run ourselves to the shore. The next waves seemed to come so quickly and we found it impossible to get ourselves out as the current pulled us further away.
I became very aware of not being able to find the bottom anymore as the waves smashed over top of my head and churned me in the depths of the water. I didn’t know which way was up or down. I soon realized that my energy was wasted trying to fight to the top as I was being flipped and turned, and it was better to just take a huge breath and let the water float me to the surface. As my head emerged, I would take in as much oxygen as my lungs would hold and hope that there would be enough to last me until the next time I came to the surface. As quickly as I could breathe, another wave would come smashing over me interrupting my next breath and causing me to go back under. Before long, I felt weak and didn’t have the strength to keep fighting.
My life began to flash before my eyes. I especially recall the moments of feeling bad for my parents, knowing how difficult it was for them that I was far from home, let alone receiving news that I had died. I remember thinking about how I was certain life would have included getting married to Travis, and us having many children and living a long life together. Childhood memories and more of life seemed to flash before my eyes and I knew it was over. A certain peace came over me, and even though I knew I was dying, I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was ready to go to heaven and especially excited that I would get to see Jesus face to face.
I took my last breath, and I knew that I was ready to move from this earth to eternity in heaven. As I breathed in my last, and began to sink, the voice of God spoke to my heart so clearly as I heard the words, “I’m not done with you yet.” Suddenly, someone gripped my wrist and in that instant I knew I was saved. More than once the hand on my wrist let go and was forced away as we struggled to the shore, but I knew I was being rescued and would not die in the ocean that day.
As my friend and I ran right past the newly posted sign that said, “Dangerous currents” in Portuguese, two lifeguards began their rescue. When they saw us heading from the beach into the water, they swiftly left their post knowing we would be in trouble. (My friend also made it to the shore that day with her own story to tell.) My life was forever changed after that experience and I committed to serving God for the rest of my life and following wherever He would lead me.
It’s easy to fear death when you don’t know what is next. Before meeting Jesus, death would have been the worst thing I could imagine, or the thing I feared the most. From one girl who wondered if God was real, to any of you who might also wonder the same; start searching to find out for yourself, and consider what Jesus promises regarding heaven and life with him. It’s as simple as believing that he died and rose again and bending your will; making him the boss of your life. He rescued me from the ocean many years ago, but through the cross, he rescues us from so much more.