I was 27 years old that perfect July night when I watched my friend run to the end of the pier following others who dove in first. Before his feet left the wood-slatted edge, I thought, “Don’t dive!”
I thought it. But I didn’t say it.
I watched Dan’s diving body disappear under the water. I jumped in after him. When I surfaced, I saw all my friends’ faces glistening, laughing under the full moon. But I didn’t see Dan. I looked around me. Then I turned and saw Dan’s body floating face down, motionless. Lifting his head might kill him. But if I did nothing, he would drown. I pulled his face from the water and screamed for help.
The nightmare had just begun. An idyllic weekend reunion of college friends on a lake in the middle of Indiana turned into a middle-of-the-night caravan following an ambulance to a spinal cord unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. After what seemed like hours, a doctor came through the door and delivered the news. Dan’s spinal cord had been severed. He was now a quadriplegic. He would never walk again, hold his wife again, bathe or clothe himself again. There were a whole lot more never-agains for our 28-year-old friend.
What if I would have opened my mouth and warned him of the dangerously shallow waters? What if I had run after him and stopped him?
What if he hadn’t followed the others who dove?
What if . . .
Recently, I opened my mouth. I chose to speak about something that could kill something besides a body. And I’m tempted to be paralyzed by fear.
What if I’m misunderstood?
What if I’m judged?
What if I’m blasted by words?
What if I did the wrong thing?
There’s a whole lot more “what-ifs” running around in my head.
But I’m choosing prayer instead of paralysis. God knows my heart. He’s big enough to deal with me. He’s loving enough to keep guiding me even if I make the biggest mess ever. And even if I make a mess of things, should I not stand up and speak out if standing up and speaking out might just keep one soul from drowning in another lake somewhere? But who am I to stand up and speak out? Who am I to try and lift another’s head? Who am I but just another sinner saved by grace? Wouldn’t it be easier and safer to stay on my solid ground, to not jump into the dark, to not look around, to not search for the missing, to not try as I can to lift life?
I don’t know what the result will be. But I know one thing for sure.
This time, I spoke. Because I care. Because I can’t let someone I say I care about stay face-down and drown.
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15