My word for 2012 was “SWIM”. I made a painting on New Year’s Eve to illustrate my commitment—that I would Get Out Of The Boat And Swim Through The Current. True enough, this past year has been about just that.
Sometime towards the end of November, I went on an adventure with my co-teachers in Cebu. This group of brave young ladies led me to do one of the things that scared me the most: to stay in a body of water without my feet touching the ground. All my life I’ve stayed by the shore and settled for the colorful rocks, shells, hermit crabs, and small crashing waves. I’d be thankful for low tides because it’s the only reason I’d go any further, but I knew that there was more to see if only I had the courage to go for it.
I actually went snorkeling, got out of the canoe to swim with the whale shark, crossed rivers, climbed rocks, and jumped from five small waterfalls. I had to keep my life vest on most of the time, though— especially because I’m not a good swimmer and I tend to panic while trying to stay afloat.
Snorkeling was an amazing experience. I saw for myself how it truly is a whole new and different dimension underwater. I remember being fascinated with this blue starfish because she was different and extraordinary. I wanted to bring her home with me on our way back, but I had to let it go. Same goes with the fish that were brave enough to stay in the palm of my hand for a while. I had to accept the fact that they would not survive in my environment. I would keep all of them with me if I could, but they belong underwater and that’s where they ought to stay.
I lost some friends this year. I thought I was going to have them in my life for a really long time but, through this experience, God taught me how to hold people loosely and value them for who they are and for the time that I have them.
Swimming with the whale shark (or butanding, in Filipino) dared me to get out of the boat and take my life vest off. For the first twenty minutes or so, I held on for dear life. I had mixed feelings of fear and excitement whenever I saw the whale shark swim closer to me. Later on, I realized how precious it was and that I could not let that rare moment just pass me by. So I slowly let go and reached out to the butanding. I knew I was not allowed to touch him and that I had to maintain a certain distance, but swimming near him even for just a while was more than enough. It was worth it.
This year, God gave me an opportunity to meet and connect with somebody of the rare kind. Given my trauma of the past, I initially kept my walls up and tried to stay away. But having my personal retreat with God made me understand that holding on to my fears and insecurities keep me from freely living (and loving). I have learned that friendships are worth investing in no matter how uncertain they might be.
Canyoning (river trekking) was both an exciting and scary experience. Some parts of the rivers were clear while some were not. I could not always be sure about what I was walking on. Some rocks were stable enough while some lacked foundation. I could trust some stones to help me jump from one point to another while some were deceitfully covered in moss that they made me slip. Some currents that led to a waterfall were smooth and steady, while some were rough and rapid.
Each waterfall was different in size, jumping point, and probably even depth. Of course, the first one made me nervous because I had no idea what I was jumping into and how long it would take for me to get back up. I already had my life vest, the trek guide, the diving instructor, and my company of teachers to save me if anything happened, yet I still doubted. I could hear Matthew 8:26 in my head: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
I finally found the courage within myself—from God, rather—to jump into the water and so I did. I felt the pure cold darkness embrace my body as gravity pulled me deeper. I swallowed a bit of water on my way back up to the surface, but I was fine. My fear eventually faded away as I jumped into the waterfalls that followed, and I actually enjoyed it.
2012 was all about taking the risk of getting out of the boat, swimming through the current, and not quitting. I dared myself to swim deeper and further not only to get drowned in the reality of life, the many (and often paradoxical) perspectives it offered, but also to the beauty and ugliness of the truth about myself. I feel like a small fish in a vast ocean: I get carried away, or lose track when i swim away from bigger fish trying to eat me up. But God is always there to help me find my way back.
Whenever I reach rock bottom I’d stop swimming and often find myself lost and then curious as to what I will find. I’m not sure if I’m ready to face it, but I have chosen to place my hope in one thing: the constant truth that I am loved by God. As Tony Evans said, “Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will find that God is the rock at the bottom.”
“And then I will look back and be amazed at how God was faithful to me through the vast ocean.” (Maggie Yoingco, December 2011)