The bright sunshine and blue sky seemed to be in sharp contrast to the sub zero wind chills nipping at our faces and the sound of snow crunching beneath our feet. But my friends and I were on a mission and we refused to let the cold weather deter us from accomplishing our goal.
During my high school years, one of my favorite activities on a cold sunny day was to bundle up and walk the icebergs of Lake Michigan. My friends and I would meet at our usual spot and begin the hike out to the big lake. I remember the excitement of climbing to the top of the sand dunes and catching my first glimpse of these magnificent ice structures.
One particular March, the icebergs had built up far out into the lake. I remember our hike taking longer than normal as we trudged through the knee-deep snow but when we finally arrived at the shoreline, the view was spectacular. The sunshine danced across the icy terrain and created an illusion of ice-mountains moving across the horizon. We could not resist walking out to the end of the pier to take a closer look. My friends stayed toward the center of the pier but I occasionally walked to the edge to investigate these massive moving mountains of ice. We each created our own path over the jagged, ice-covered cement and eventually met at the end of the pier. The panoramic view was breathtaking.
The combination of bright sunshine, blue sky and shimmering ice was mesmerizing. We all stood quietly enjoying the wintery landscape, and then I noticed an amazing piece of icy artwork at the edge of the pier. I moved closer to examine it; a decision I immediately regretted. I began slipping helplessly on the ice and disappeared into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan.
The shock of the cold water was paralyzing, and at first I could not comprehend what was happening. I felt the weight of my winter clothing pulling me downward and quickly realized these might be the last moments of my life. I began fighting with all my might to make it back to the surface of the water. Finally, I felt the sting of a biting wind against my face. I frantically gasped for air and tried to find something, anything to grab on to. I saw the outlines of my friends reaching out to me but the ice and frigid waters prevented our hands from connecting.
I sank back down into the icy waters and darkness closed in around me. My entire 17 years of life began to flash before my eyes; a fast rewind of clear and vivid memories, one after another as I sank deeper into the water…then everything stopped. I felt indescribable peace, a peace that surrounded me, calmed me and took away all my fear. My body became weightless and I could see myself floating in the water. The coldness of the water disappeared and time seemed to stand still.
I could see a powerful force of energy beneath me, a powerful yet comforting presence holding me, lifting me up. I wondered how I could feel such amazing love and perfect peace in the darkness of the water. I did not want to leave this feeling—it was so beautiful.
Suddenly I was being pushed upward by the force. I could sense light penetrating through the water and voices desperately calling my name. Once again I broke the surface of the water and began gasping for air. I blindly reached out for help; then a hand connected with mine. A voice kept saying hang on tightly as my friends created a human chain and worked together to pull me back up onto the pier.
It took several days to process what had happened. I tried to express my gratitude to friends who risked their own lives to save mine. I’m pretty sure I was able to do that. But as I tried to find words to explain the complete peace I experienced in the depths of the icy waters, or how I returned to the surface of the water a second time, I am simply unable. This I do know, however. I know the indescribable peace I experienced was Jesus. I asked Jesus into my life as a young girl. Since then, I have studied His Word and tried to live a life pleasing to Him. But until that cold day in March I didn't understand the depths of His love and His promise to always be with me.
We each have a story of how God has shown us his love. Many of us have experienced His peace in our darkest moments and have been lifted up by His amazing grace. It brings to mind Paul’s letter to the Romans where he states in the 8th chapter, 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. ~ Romans 8:38-39
How is God calling you to share your story so others can experience the unconditional, unending love of Jesus?
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