Riding the Waves
You don’t want to go to war with the United States. Trust me, I know. It happened to me.
War with the U.S., I mean. Or at least with the local R.O.T.C.
I’m not an athlete, but I do try to stay in shape. My most recent workout obsession is water jogging. It’s a fun exercise in which you wear a flotation belt and jog in really deep water. Your feet don’t touch the ground, and the water provides resistance training. It’s harder than it looks, and so far I’ve lost a few pounds and many inches. My muscles are getting some definition.
But I’m still no match for the armed forces.
Last Tuesday, I arrive at the pool at approximately 6:10 a.m. A few other aqua joggers are already in the pool—young, fit athletes who jog as part of their track team training. They don’t know this, but each of them is my muse. If I keep working, I might eventually get my 20-year-old body back.
I’ve been in the water about five minutes when all of a sudden, we’re invaded by storm troopers who surround the pool, drop and start doing pushups and situps to “Hup-hup-hup” commands from their officer. In spite of their sweating and panting, I know my heart beats faster than any of theirs. That’s because I know what’s coming.
Sure enough, a polite young man with a military haircut approaches me. “Excuse me, ma’am. Would it be all right if we use half the pool only, and leave the other half for you and the other joggers?”
I have a feeling it isn’t really a question. “Of course,” I reply with my prettiest smile, because the last thing I want to do is anger the militia.
Soon after, the hup-hup-hup starts again, and I can only assume there is a hidden code language in those syllables, because next thing I know, a swarm of several thousand soldiers (give or take a few) splashes into the pool and causes a tsunami of epic proportion. I swear, there are whitecaps on those waves.
Their leader tells them to bob, and for the next few minutes, the waves intensify as the crowd of cadets pops up and down, up and down. The other joggers and I look at one another in shared terror and commiseration. That pool is a war zone, and we are in the direct line of fire.
In their bobbing, they lose track of the line which marks their half of the pool, and before long the aqua jogging lane is about four inches wide and a couple feet long. The track team members and I shrink into ourselves and make tiny circles around each other because, really, what would you do if a guy the size of a Yukon moose invades your water space?
That’s what I thought.
Then it gets worse. The track team members—my muses—abandon me. They get out of the pool. Panicked, I look at them. “You’re not really going to leave me here, are you?”
“Sorry,” one of them says, and I can see the compassion in each of their expressions, like they know this is probably the last time they’ll see me alive.
But I still have ten more minutes in my workout, and by golly, I’m not going to be bullied out of those ten minutes. I’m going to finish my workout if it’s the last thing I do. Which, it looks like it might be.
For ten more minutes, I ride the crests, fight the breakers, and dodge the missiles. Then I leave them and head for the locker room, praying every step of the way I’m not taken out by a stray human cannonball.
The ROTC is a force to be reckoned with. The sight of them is both startling and soothing, because I know they’re on my side. They suffer those early-morning drills so that, if the time comes, if they’re needed, they can keep the rest of us safe. They are true heroes in training.
Going to battle with them is a little like fighting God, I suppose. God is shocking in His power, consoling in His compassion. I tremble in His presence, and I fully relax in the peace that presence brings. He commands my holy reverence, but when I give it, I know He fights for me and never against me. He is on my side.
Nevertheless, when I get to heaven, I’m going to request a mansion with a private pool.
“How great is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,” Psalm 31:19.