When I was 9 years old, we rented a house on the southern shore of Lake Ontario for the summer while my dad was on a work assignment in Canada. Among my many treasured memories of that season, I often think about swimming with my sister and our friends off that rugged beach. There was so much to explore.
Thirty Mile Creek trickled right through our back yard offering wriggling smelt to watch and rock dams to build. About 100 yards off in one direction on the beach was an abandoned cement pump house where farmers gathered lake water for the surrounding orchards of peaches, pears and cherries. (Did I mention what an idyllic location this was, like right from the scenes of a nostalgic movie?) Its roof provided a warm and flat spot for our beach towels — a private hideaway from parents for a picnic and giggles while sun tanning.
Just a few yards in the other direction about 50 feet off shore were the remains of an old shipping pier used in the early 1800s. Since the top of that pier lay just a few inches under the water’s surface, you couldn’t see it from the shore unless the waves were very high or the water was perfectly calm. In between high swells, the water dipped low enough to reveal just enough of that worn pier (or at least a ripple in the water) so we could spot our destination and swim out to it. Once we were in the water though, we had to swim blind — just feeling around with our arms and legs for that fun resting spot where we would sit and sometimes linger for hours. It could get exhausting treading water and trying to be the first one to find it. It was also a bit eerie to swim around not knowing the moment when your body would bump the slimy edge of that ancient (150-year-old), algae-covered relic. Among our favorite games to play out there was like a snowball fight. It involved pulling clumps of soft, mossy algae off the surface of the sunken old block of cement and tossing it at each other. It would stick to your target’s skin quite nicely actually.
Despite the fierce competition, we had a common understanding. If one person always stayed on the pier, then we wouldn’t lose sight of it and everyone swimming in various directions would always know the quickest way back to our safe place. We’d take turns being that person who stayed close to our “moorings” but, make no mistake, it was very helpful to keep at least one person grounded on that foundation. If not for that, it could get exhausting (truth-be-told, even dangerous) trying to find it again, especially if the waters were rough.
What a fun reminder of good times and precious friends this is! And the spiritual metaphor is not missed on me today as I’ve been reminiscing on the heels of sharing this quote to Facebook a few days ago:
“One of the most encouraging examples of friendship in the Bible is
that of Saul’s son Jonathan with David. On one occasion when David was in great trouble,
we read that Jonathan went to meet him ‘and helped him to find strength in God’ (1 Samuel 23:16).
Friends that do that for us are very precious.”
(from Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash)
Christian friendship has often been an important place for me to find a “mooring” of sorts. Especially when the waves of adversity were rough in my life or when I was flailing around trying to find God in the deeps of my circumstances where the way to safety was hard to see. Throughout much of my life, I’ve been privileged to have friends who cheered me on and showed me the way back to the Foundation. Sometimes we hang out there together and other times one of us has to hold on tight and call out to the rest, “come this way!” Often, it’s just plain fun resting in that anchoring place with each other. Other times it’s hard work not getting knocked off by the waves or slimed by the craziness around us. But always there has been something so satisfying about clinging to our Rock and Refuge together.
Christian community is a beautiful thing. It’s an essential resource for staying grounded and safe in faith. It’s a fun place to grow and make new discoveries about the Rock, the foundation of our faith, Jesus. Avoiding connection to others who are clinging to the Rock is dangerous. Treading water alone or trying to duck and hide under the waves to avoid getting slimed ultimately gets us in trouble.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another,
especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
“Beware!” I sometimes remind myself. Friendship, at times, has distracted me from God Himself and offered an illusion of security. To be sure, friends often sustain us but they can’t ultimately save us. Only the solid, reliable refuge of Jesus saves and satisfies us to the uttermost. I love swimming out in the deeps of life experiencing grand adventures together but we will all ultimately wear out without a dependable resting place. Let’s enjoy the full greatness of friendship as only possible within community that is moored to The Rock of Ages!