Thanks to the generosity of my husband’s parents, we had a gorgeous honeymoon at the Romora Bay Club in Harbor Island, Bahamas. It is a beautiful island with a resort or two tucked away among palm trees and white sandy beaches. It took two planes and a small boat ride to get out to the island, but it was well worth the day of travel. We had a private bungalow and it was a picture perfect way to start our new life together. We spent the days in the sun and on the water and in the evenings we snuggled in a hammock. On our first trip to the beach, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the water and the pristine white beach! We were happily skipping towards the water and just inches away from plunging in when we heard a voice calling out to us, "STOP!" We were startled, and looked around for a private beach sign that we may have missed. We sighted the source of the “STOP” - it was a woman running towards us from a house back from the beach. She then started screaming, "Hammerhead shark 10 feet away from you!" When we looked into the water, there was the fin. We thanked her, put our beach towel on the sand and decided to watch the sunset. Forget swimming! I'd love to say this was our only scare on this trip, but keep reading.
Over breakfast on the last morning of our week-long honeymoon, we met another couple; also newlyweds. They were very nice people from New Jersey. I wish I could remember their names, but I can't. In our conversation we both stated that we were having a grand time and loved the resort and the island. We also agreed that our only regret was that we had not been able to rent a boat and explore some of the islands – it was too expensive for either of our newlywed budgets. But after some discussion, we got the bright idea to pool our resources. So together, we rented a small boat and set off for a great day on the water! We had a picnic on a beautiful little deserted island and enjoyed cruising over the crystal clear blue waters. It was a great day! As the day was nearing an end, it was decided that we should find a coral reef and snorkel before we had to return the boat. We found a beautiful reef way out in the water, donned our snorkel gear and jumped in. I may need to pause the story and make sure you get the clear picture. We were in the middle of the ocean - no land in sight! We were the only boat in any direction and there were just the four of us newly married kids. While the other three in the boat were surely brave, I was just trying not to rock the boat – I am a great big chicken. I can't say that enough. Adventure to me is using a public toilet, wearing a new shade of lipstick or trying out a new restaurant. So this leap over the side of the boat, into waters I knew had sharks, was BIG!
But in the water we went. We had on the goggles and swim fins that the boat rental company had provided for us and took off exploring. At first I was just fine swimming in the ocean, I'm actually a good swimmer, but I say again, I am a great big chicken. It was not until I put my face down into the water and joined the others in snorkeling that my confidence and calm demeanor began to unravel! First off, I was shocked at the multitude of little purple, orange, yellow, blue, and bright green fish! The little fish were everywhere! Swimming all around me and every other member of our little honeymoons-'R-us party! The fish were bumping into my legs and I could see them swimming into my new friend's curly hair – I soon felt them nibbling on my hair as well. I tried to calm myself down. I told myself that I was OK and that I was much bigger than any of these fish. You know the load of fish guts line, "They are more afraid of you than you are of them!" But when that didn't work, I turned to the “they are just part of God's creation” line. God loves them and can count each little fish by their fins and their teeth. TEETH! At that moment, the chicken side of me won, and I began to scream and splash about, and in general, pitch a panic! Jody came up from snorkeling alarmed by my screaming and assumed the worse - SHARK! He scrambled towards me. I was attempting to get up the boat ladder, but my legs wouldn't make it happen. I was paralyzed by fear! The fish, combined with my own screaming, had convinced me I was soon to die! I started thinking of the unopened wedding gifts. What a waste! The other couple was now aware of what was going on and were swimming post haste to the boat as well. Jody and I had taken our marriage vows only days before, and the "to death do you part" part was racing through Jody's mind, he later shared. He knew, like the other new husband, that as much as he wanted to knock me off that ladder and save himself, he had to get me to safety and pray that there was time enough to save himself before Jaws grabbed him and pulled him down to a watery grave. Jody states that he took a deep breath, planted his feet on something firm below the surface and hurled me into the boat! He then climbed up the ladder, shaking and thanking God aloud for saving us. The other couple did not have the chance to use the ladder, since we were monopolizing it, and instead threw themselves up over the front of the boat; cutting up themselves on a rough edge not meant to come in contact with human flesh. Whew, finally we were all back in the boat. Then all eyes were on me. What had I seen? What kind of shark was out there? Now, remember friends, I had seen nothing but a million little fish swarming me. Now I was looking at the formerly happy faces of the honeymoon gang and realizing that my story would not be adequate. But I had to tell them, I had to say out loud, "I AM A BIG CHICKEN!" So, I did just that. I told them what had happened, that I had gotten scared by a bunch of beautiful little fish. I apologized. It was a heart-felt apology. Jody looked at me like he understood, but the other couple avoided making eye contact. After a few minutes, and after the shock wore off, everyone began to share their deepest fears. Both husbands professed their love and desire to protect us, so we all embraced and agreed the trip was over. No one said anything hurtful, but I'm sure they all thought it. We quietly made our way back to the resort. That was the last time I saw that couple, although I do still have a picture of them (see below). I'm sure they tell the story in a slightly different way that involves a crazy girl from Alabama – their version would be correct as well. If you know them, please tell them sorry again for me!
Now in life, we don't experience many life and death moments where we literally have to beat off a shark, jump in front of a bullet for someone or decide in a moment's notice who will live or who will die. But in those moments, true character and the content of one’s heart is revealed. Jody and the other young groom in my story revealed a heart that was totally committed to the preservation of their wives with no regard for their own safety. They prepared to lay down their life for love. That kind of devotion, and love, is not common among humans. But, it was and is with Christ. He laid down His life for all of us, His bride (John 15:13). And, we don’t have to wait for a shark size event to practice this kind of devotion and love. There are many little ways we can show this same kind of devotion and love. I'm thinking about how we support and love a spouse through tough times, like the loss of a parent, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream, or, even more privately, how we handle a sin our spouse has committed against us. Little ways can release the truth of the gospel that you may have hidden in your heart. When your husband or wife confesses their sin, are you quick to retreat into the den of self-pity, or are you ready to be the HERO of their story and help lead them from the jaws of sin. This is the true test of love – a willingness to forgive and love again and to hold our spouses hand as they walk out of sin, no matter what that sin is. These can and should be the true hero moments in mine and your love story. This is what Christ did for us. God sent His own son to die for us so that the righteous requirements of the law, a blameless death, may be fulfilled (Romans 8:3-4). We don’t have to be perfect – it’s OK when we are chickens. Christ died so that we may live eternally! His forgiveness covers a multitude of our sins. I pray that we faithfully return the favor with our spouses.
I can confidently tell you that the day on that small boat in the Bahamas was not the only time Jody has been my hero. He consistently pushes me into the boat first as he shows up every day and faithfully loves me, a self-professed crazy person. He puts my needs above his and makes sure I know that I am his priority. He faithfully reminds me of God's promises and he daily washes me in the Word. He is quick to forgive me when I am wrong and remind me that I am still his pick of all the fish in the sea. I also believe that he feels I treat him this way too! Our goal is to show the world the truth of the gospel, and that our love is deeper than the ocean!
So when life hits you hard, or sin catches you or your spouse by surprise, I pray that what you do is plant your feet on something solid beneath the surface of the troubled waters, like the truth, and help your loved one back into the boat. Keep reading, new friend! Love each other well!
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.