The drowning victim was barely able to utter the words, “Help me!”
I remembered those crucial words today as I passed by several empty lifeguard chairs. My lunch appointment had cancelled, so I joined some of my grandchildren who were picnicking with their moms at a local lake. I sat in the lifeguard chair remembering the day over 37 years ago when I was that drowning victim calling for help.
The day preceding my wedding day I was scheduled to take my last finals of college. I would finally be finished with school! For “fun” I had taken a lifesaving course as an elective. The lifesaving certification test was one of those ‘day-before-the-wedding’ exams. Unfortunately (for me) we had experienced some unseasonably cool December temperatures for Florida, and the heater in the pool was not working. This was before the school’s large indoor sports arena was built. The pool used for swim meets and for our lifesaving class was outside. It was cold. I still remember the lifesaving drills and the dread of throwing off my sweatsuit before meeting the water. (The water was in the 50’s, which is fairly normal for the New England Atlantic – but for my Florida blood it felt frigid.)
Since the heater was broken, the woman who was scheduled to be the “drowning victim” for the girls test didn’t show up at the pool for the testing. She assumed the testing was postponed. My classmates would reschedule their tests, but since I was getting married and moving the following day I didn’t have that option. My instructor found someone nearby who was willing to be my “victim” for the test. He introduced me to the University of Florida varsity men’s’ soccer coach – my victim. I remember looking at his very muscular frame and hoping he would be kind to me as I tried to “save” him. He was not. He struggled with me, pulled me into a headhold and began to take me under (as many victims do). I began going under and felt my legs cramp with excruciating pain. They just wouldn’t work. As I gasped for air I looked at him and screamed, “Help Me!” He pulled me out – and though I never retook my test I was happy to be alive and and able to marry my wonderful husband the next day.
The simple words “Help Me” are sometimes hard to say, but they are extremely important. I didn’t want to ask for help – after all I was supposed to be the lifesaver and had looked forward to working as a lifeguard. However, as I saw my need I realized it would have been rather stupid to pretend to be okay, all set, and in control.
When God calls us to become like little children, I believe one of the qualities he calls us to imitate is their eagerness to ask for help. I often hear the words, “Help me Nana!” They are spoken with humility, and with confidence and trust that I am bigger and wiser than my grandchildren – and therefore able to help them.
There are many times and situations in life where all I know to say to God is “Help me!” These words come more easily when I am well aware that I am not in control. However, too often I can forget that I am never really in control. Every breath I take is dependent on Him. (Acts 17:28
‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ )
I realize that the the ‘help me’ posture toward God is the one with which I need to begin and end every day – not just when I feel desperate. As Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chron. 20:12
O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
The truth is, without God’s leadership and presence in my life every moment is desperate. I don’t know what to do without God and am so grateful I can look to him for help. My God is eager to answer my call for help.
As I sat in the lifeguard’s chair it was a good reminder that I am always in desperate need of God’s help. I can do what I can….but without God I really have nothing. With him, I’m good to go.
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
 ” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.