Journal entry by Vicki Bunke
This past Friday as I was driving to Kiawah Island to participate in Stop #7 of The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour, I received a phone call from my good friend Michelle. She was calling to wish me good luck. We talked for a good while and then before we hung up, she jokingly asked if I could put in a good word for her. They were soon going to be traveling to Michigan in order to move their youngest daughter back into college, and she wanted to be sure that Tropical Storm Grace didn’t cause them any trouble. I assured her that I would try, but Grace always had a mind of her own.
By Sunday morning, I had almost forgotten about Michelle’s request. That is until I disembarked from the shuttle ride to the start of our 1.5 mile swim and walked onto the beach. The weather was beautiful, the sand was soft, but the waves were menacing. At least they were to me. Never swimming 1.5 miles in the Atlantic Ocean before, I found myself a tad bit terrified as I thought to myself, “There is no way I am going to be able to do this.” Truthfully, I thought something a little stronger than that, but you get the point.
As I walked to the start, I was certain that the event organizers were going to cancel the event or at least drive us closer to the finish line. Or at least that’s what I was hoping they would do. Why? Because I was thinking, “There is no way I am going to be able to do this.” At one point I turned to Dr. Wasilewski and said, “Well, here we are again. Standing together in front of another metaphor for life. Crashing waves. Rough seas. Uncertain currents.”
Standing on the beach staring at the waves while contemplating life metaphors and feeling uneasy, I thought of Grace. Which is nothing new, but this time, I thought of Grace and the Sea of Galilee. But not the calm Sea of Galilee that we visited as a family in November 2018; rather, I thought of the Sea of Galilee as told in Matthew 8:23-27 and depicted in Rembrandt’s painting, ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.’
In this painting, Rembrandt not only depicts the scene in which Peter’s boat is being battered about by the wind and the waves, he also illustrates different responses that the disciples are having to the storm. In the back of the boat, there is a small group who are gathered at Jesus’ feet with their eyes focused on Him. There is a sense of calmness surrounding this group. In contrast, a second group of disciples are hidden in the shadows where fear seems to possess them. There is a third group of disciples who are fighting the storm and desperately trying to keep the boat from being overtaken by the crashing waves. Rembrandt also depicts a light coming through the clouds indicating that the storm is about to break. The irony is that those in the darkness and those fighting against the storm don’t even see the light. Some of them even have their backs turned to the light.
As I stood on that Kiawah Island beach staring at those waves, I realized that this often happens in the storms that arise in our lives. When we fight the storms on our own, we are oblivious to the light. We see only darkness. We don’t see the hope, only the despair. So, I decided that I would choose to be like the disciples in the first group – the ones looking to the Light for peace. I decided not to fight against the waves that I was about to encounter or dwell in the darkness and allow my fear to overtake me. No. I would focus on the Light and embrace the waves, embrace the moment, and know that I would make it to the end one stroke at a time.
And I did! We all did!
At the finish line we were all greeted with high fives and hugs from family and friends as we emerged from the ocean. As I looked out at the waves with the 1.5 miles behind me and my loved ones in front of and beside me, I realized that our team along with all of the other Swim Across America teams across the country are a grace-filled force with whom to be reckoned. As I walked away from the beach, I recalled a familiar quote, but modified it a bit in my mind. I smiled as I thought to myself:
“Cancer whispered to them, you cannot withstand the storm; they whispered back, we are the storm.”
We head to Chicago this weekend for Stop #8! We welcome you to join us in being the storm against cancer by clicking here: The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour
Here is a video from our Kiawah Island swim last Sunday: Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour – Kiawah Island.