I recently landed on a Facebook post that referenced a Coast Guard – On Scene article about recognizing when a person is drowning. As I read, I began to sense the Holy Spirit resonating a spiritual reality in the description of someone who is caught in “Instinctive Drowning Response.”
In the article, Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., identifies the natural form of “Instinctive Drowning Response” as having the following five characteristics (summarized):
- Someone who is truly drowning does not usually call out for help.
- Their mouths are continually bobbing just below or just above the surface.
- The body’s instinctive response when drowning is to extend the arms laterally and push down on the water to push their mouths up through the surface.
- There is typically no voluntary control of arm movements.
- Their bodies remain vertical, and they can only struggle at the surface of the water 20-60 seconds before submersion occurs.
Dr. Pia and Aviation Survival Technician First Class Mario Vittone further explained that if you do not recognize a person caught in “Instinctive Drowning Response,” then they may be drowning right before your very eyes without even realizing it. People in “Instinctive Drowning Response” are not able to assist in overcoming the drowning. Children often perish from drowning death while their parents look on, not realizing what is happening.
As I considered this, Isaiah 43:2a came to my mind, “When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm; you will not be engulfed in raging rivers …”
Is God sending you to walk someone out of the overpowering waves of life so they are no longer overwhelmed?
I’ve seen many folks come through churches who are struggling, yet not actually flailing about — they’re actually communicating what they hear from God and are trying to respond to Him. Somehow in the mixture of their interpretation and the overwhelming cares of life, they are caught in deception. They often come at us offensive — even referred to as demonic — when in fact they are actually wounded souls who may or may not be oppressed by the enemy. They are literally struggling to find their way through the waves of oppression into the light. My heart begs the question: Why don’t we recognize the wounded quality of those who are coming up for air, trying to sort out what they feel they are hearing from God?
Here is what God is showing me through these people He is introducing me to on a pretty regular basis. Most of them are deeply wounded in their souls. Their emotions are all over the map. They’ve come up under some law-driven or judgment-oriented theology, deep in the throes of denial. In every case they do not see the dysfunction that repels others with force.
I think of Peter, who had “foot-in-mouth disease.” He said he’d follow Christ to the cross and take what Christ took. He said he’d never deny him. He is also the guy who stepped out of the boat and walked on water with Jesus. If we ran into Peter in those moments after Christ was arrested, we might well run from him, too. He might have appeared a little off, calling down curses on himself in those moments, denying the man who had become a close friend and leader to him.
Thankfully, Peter was restored and fulfilled his kingdom purpose as the chip off Christ’s block on which He built the church. But, what if the other disciples didn’t receive Peter? What if they dismissed him because he missed the mark — a few times — failing to do what looked like the right thing to do? He cowered in fear instead of rallying the troops.
I believe there are a lot of wounded, gifted, leaderless leaders in the body of Christ waiting to be welcomed, loved and raised up into their calling. They are dirty; some of them act like the devil or call out other people’s sins without dealing with their own. In one word, they are deceived.
Changing the dynamic and the outcome in their lives starts with us — who are called to lead, who have matured in our faith and gifting, reaching out our hands, helping them focus their hearts on Jesus and hear from Him. Walking with them as they grow into who He created them to be.
The question blazing in my heart tonight: When will we see with His eyes, hear with His ears and love from His heart those drowning in their spiritual abyss right before our very eyes?
When will calling forth the greatness in others outweigh our fear of having to get down in the dirt to help them dig out? Jesus did that for us. It’s time for the body of Christ to stop judging those among us, and to step forward and lead them to become who Christ created and redeemed them to be. It begins with allowing God to do justice in our own hearts as He leads us to desire mercy for the wounded and hurting among us. Let’s follow Him in.