Hebrews 11: 13-16 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” NIV
It was summer, 1981. All the missionaries and student missionaries at the mission station where I was spending the summer as an SOS were going to have a treat. We were planning on spending the weekend away from the capital city (Port-au-Prince), at a cozy Haitian beach. After months of hard work, we longed for a little break, and relaxing beside the Atlantic Ocean was just what the doctor had ordered! Our final destination wasn’t an expensive resort, however. None of us could have afforded such a thing on a missionary’s salary. In fact, it wasn’t a hotel of any kind. We had reserved a few huts from the local people, complete with comfortable mats and hammocks for beds! It wasn’t much, but it was shelter from the elements!
Miles of beautiful sandy beaches outlining a lush, blue ocean greeted us when we arrived, and I was immediately enamored. This was DEFINITELY MY kind of paradise! I wandered around for a little while, enjoying the view and greeting some of the locals, but then I could resist the beckoning ocean no longer and I headed out for a swim in that beautiful, blue water.
I had barely put a foot into the water, however, when a native ran up to me, grabbing my arms, holding me back . . . .
“Master!” he cried, speaking in Creole. I had always hated that particular title, but because of my Master’s degree in Theology, the locals insisted on calling me that name! But the urgency in his voice was enough to make me realize that NOW wasn’t the TIME to argue about my title!
“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Master!” His voice was even more desperate than before. “The bay is DANGEROUS!”
“Dangerous?” I quickly looked out over the waters for sharks-or any other kind of “jawed” fish, for that matter!-but there was nothing but beautiful, calm waters. “What do you mean, dangerous?”
“The waters are full of ‘méduses’!” he cried.
“Méduses?” I scanned the waters again. “Where?”
“Come!” he said. And without further ado, he took a step farther into the bay and dipped his hand under the water. When he withdrew it, he was holding a “méduse”. He then heaved it back out into the ocean.
That’s when I saw them: thousands of jellyfish everywhere in the water. They looked so gracious, floating around like little water-filled clouds, but I knew from experience back home on the beaches of Belgium, just how painful their stings could be. The long-forgotten memory of a swimmer in my hometown being rushed to the hospital with a huge jellyfish clinging to his chest came vividly to my mind, and as I watched this local Haitian boy reach back into the water for yet another of these creatures, I couldn’t help but wonder how he was managing to NOT get hurt! “How come he doesn’t sting you?” I quarried.
He smiled and explained to me that it was only the jellyfish’s tentacles that were venomous, not its top. If he grabbed the creature from the top and turned it upside-down, it was powerless to hurt him. Then he patiently showed me how to avoid these gracious but dangerous creatures and how to fish them out of the water to throw them away.
And that was how my swimming expedition turned into a lesson in fishing for “méduses”. Thanks to my caring friend, I was able to enjoy those deadly waters and avoid tragedy.
As it turned out, the cove was really NO place for a swim. Instead, it was a dangerous place of adventure. Although I quickly mastered the art of “catching” the “méduses”, I didn’t exactly feel at home here! The same is true about our existence on this planet. We are mere “aliens”, passing through to our final destination. “Méduses” (sin) is on every side. Some of us decide to make ourselves comfortable in this hostile region, and we choose to live as citizens of this world. But the inner peace that can only come from God’s presence in our lives soon leaves us. Without this inner “warning” device, there is nothing to caution us about the perils and dangers of the world, and we are soon “stung”, ensnared by its deadly tentacles.
But there is a solution. Jesus said – John 16:13: “But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said.” (The Message)
We are looking forward to our home in heaven, where there will be NO lurking dangers. It will be a place where we will be with our loving “Abba” or Daddy. A place where no one will suffer pain or lack. I am looking forward to wading with Jesus along the water’s edge and being able to pet the jellyfish without having to worry about being stung. Are you looking forward to reaching home as well?
Watch out for the “méduses” of this life, and remember to listen to the warnings of God’s Spirit! If you don’t, the sting could be deadly!