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“Why does that passage mention water twice?” I thought.
Over and over again, I read it, trying to answer my own question: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the rivers, they will not overshadow you. When you pass through the fire, you will not be burned. For I am with you, says the Lord.”
It just didn’t make sense to me. There had to be a reason why God would speak of water two times in the same passage and fire only once.
After mulling over the words for a few seconds, I finally got it. The two waters God was describing were completely different.
“Passing through waters,” evokes the idea of calm water, like a pond or slow-moving stream, but “Passing through rivers,” creates a whole new feeling of urgency and unexpectedness. You would think the latter would be more consuming and fearful to me, but as I read the verses over, it was the first part of the passage that bothered me the most. Fear and uneasiness swelled within me and I knew something wasn’t right. Why would the thought of calm water actually make me fearful? Why was I afraid?
Then, I remembered.
I remembered the murky water. I remembered what it looked like to actually see through it. I remembered my favorite dress and my mom stretching her arm across our chests as she said, “Y’all hold on.” I remembered being wrapped in a towel and riding in a white car to the doctor’s office. I remembered — and the fear swelled again.
We were little, my brothers and I. We were riding home from seeing my grandpa in the hospital when it happened. Through no fault of her own, my mom lost control of the pickup, and we rolled off an embankment into the water. As the truck sank, my mom quickly grabbed my 3-year-old brother and pulled him out of the truck, holding his head — and hers — above the water as she balanced on the outside of the door.
My older brother, then 5, dogpaddled out the broken side window, bobbing up and down until someone finally came and rescued him. Me? Well, I just stood there, on the truck seat, looking around. I don’t know what I was waiting for. I’m not sure why I didn’t follow my brother out the window, but I didn’t.
Before I knew it, Mom had me, too. Reaching backwards in through the truck window, she couldn’t find my body, but she did find the sash of my dress. She grabbed it and pulled me out of the window and into the air.
After replaying the accident in my mind, I once again remembered “When you pass through the water...” Now I understood. I understood why the first part of that verse caused such fear. I understood why I was afraid of calm water. I understood why my fear was there, and I also understood that it had to go.
Immediately, I asked God to take it from me, to make this “fearfulness” go away — forever. I didn’t want it in my life anymore. I wanted it gone.
And in an instant, I heard Him gently speak the last words of that passage into my spirit: “I was there with you then, too, Belinda.”
Needless to say, I sat there on my bed and cried and cried. Even then, in the literal water of my childhood, God was with me. The promise He had made more than 2,000 years ago didn’t just apply to grownup Belinda. Instead, His promise of companionship has encircled me my entire life — even in the waters, even then. How blessed I am to know such a God.
It truly was a miracle that day that any of us got out of the murky water alive. You see, when they went to pull the truck out of the water, the wrecker’s hook hit the tailgate and the truck disappeared. Evidently, it was balancing on a broken tree stump, 10 feet or so above the bottom of the pond. Isn’t it funny that all that time my mom was thrashing around trying to save us, the truck never moved — yet, then when a hook touched the tailgate, it became unstable?
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...” and He was.
And He still is.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your presence, for it, alone is enough to dispel our fear as we walk with You through the water. Thank You that You speak peace to us through Your Word and fill us not with a sense of dread, but with a sense of excitement at seeing what You are doing for us and in us. Thank You Jesus that You truly never will leave us nor forsake us, that You have been with us from the very beginning and the You will hold us until our eyes close in death. And even then, You will be with us! You are so good, and we are so grateful. Praise You, Lord. Praise You.
Steve and Belinda Kirk write the “Everyday Grace” devotional for the Johnstonian News. Reach them at 919-449-5745 and firstname.lastname@example.org.