I’m grateful for a recent learning experience that has really shifted my thought about the nature of Life.
This past March my family and I went to Puerto Rico for a short vacation. We were on a part of the island that is renowned for great surfing. The waves are pretty powerful, but we chose a beach that our guidebook described as gentle. There were surfers out in the bigger waves, but there were also some swimmers on a sandbar playing in the waves.
My 11-year-old daughter and I went out to the sandbar. We were having a great time until we stepped off the sandbar and immediately found ourselves in a rip tide. We tried to swim parallel to the shore, but it was extremely difficult. After a little more than a minute, we were tired and out of breath.
I can’t say I had any profound spiritual thoughts in those moments—I was just trying to stay close to my daughter and keep talking to her so that mortal mind would not tempt us to panic or to be overwhelmed by fear. Eventually a wave nudged us back to the sandbar, my foot found the bottom, and I was able to pull my daughter to where I could stand.
Two days later, we met a surfer who had saved a swimmer’s life on that same beach. He told us that four people had drowned at that beach on that day. I found his story pretty haunting, and it kept me from sleeping. I was searching for what I should learn from the experience. On one level I was extremely grateful for a reinforcement of the fact that God truly is the preserver of man. But on another level, the feeling of responsibility for my daughter’s being swept away in life-threatening forces was terrifying.
I couldn’t find an answer until I asked my college Sunday School class what they thought I should be learning from the experience. One earnest student reminded me that Mrs. Eddy says, “Matter has no life to lose, and Spirit never dies.” (Science and Health, 275:1) That really struck me. I had simply been too immersed in the idea that a good Christian Science demonstration of Life meant a certain number of healthy, wealthy years in a mortal body.
Would anything about Life have changed if our mortal bodies had perished in the ocean? If I truly understood that I live and move and have my being in the infinite spiritual good that we call God, my answer to that question would obviously have to be no. So why is there any need to fear passing on? I don’t have to fear being separated from what I cherish most—the love and the life that I feel from my wife and daughter—because that love is just a hint of what Mrs. Eddy described as the “final allness of good” that all of us actually live in. (MBE in Rolling Away the Stone, by Stephen Gottschalk, p. 114)
I also realized I could demand to be free of the haunting images that mortal mind was trying to put into my thought of that rip tide, and I have been. Later we met another surfer who said he appreciates the rip tides—they take him out to the big waves. He told us that if you just ride them, the rip tides eventually loop around and start to take you back to the beach. He also added his opinion that it’s simply fear and panic that causes people to perish in rip tides.
Even though it’s not the way I would choose to learn these lessons, I feel like I’m much more at peace with the fact that my Life is already perfect and unending.