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How Scuba Diving Prepared Me for Life's Lows

While in training to be a certified scuba diver, I found myself on my knees at the bottom of a twenty-two-foot deep Illinois lake on a snowy day in late October. It was anything but a comfortable climate and the visibility was very low. This training required you to remove your mask and put it back on while underwater. The anxiety I had built around this moment was layered and thick. I would have rather woken up to taking the ACT all day than do this one task that scared me more than anything. I was so afraid of being underwater. I was so afraid of being without air. I was so afraid of not being able to see. I was so afraid of something going wrong: that I would mess up, that I would panic, that I would try to breathe through my nose instead of my regulator.

I was just so afraid.

Yet here I was. At the bottom of the Illinois lake, on my knees.

The instructor could sense my fear and came up and kneeled about a foot away from me and just stared at me.

It was my turn.

It was time to do what I had DREAD doing.

So I took in all the air I could from my regulator as if it was going to be my last breath for a while.

And I took off my mask.

There, with my mask off, I could feel all the cold water flood my face.

I felt so exposed.

Violated by what I feared.

It was like I dunked my face in all my fear and anxiety and there was air there, and I had to choose whether or not I would calm myself enough to breathe.

There, I took a breath through my regulator to know that, even there, there was still air.

And I just sat there for a few moments, knowing that I could sit in the culmination of all my fear and anxiety and still breathe. I could just be.

I could still find comfort there.

What’s so interesting about that moment, my full focus was on our most instinctive habit, breathing.

All I could focus on was each inhale and each exhale.

There wasn’t room for anything else.

So that’s exactly what I did.


“It’s ok”


After a few breaths, I put my mask back on and tilted my head slightly up while pressing on the top of the mask and breathing out my nose as hard as I could to clear out the water.

Then after another breath with my mask on empty and my eyes tightly closed, I slowly opened my eyes to find, I was ok. It was all ok.

I found that even in my fear and anxiety, there was still air.

There was still rest.

There was still comfort.

There was still peace

In some of my most difficult moments, I find myself back in the same posture I was at the bottom of an Illinois lake.

On my knees. A posture of surrender.

Exposed to all anxiety.

Violated by what I feared.

But finding, even there, there’s still air to breathe.

I can just be.

Sometimes being and breathing is our bravest and most persevering posture.

In the midst of the heaviness, you’ll find yourself able to sit in the culmination of all fear and anxiety and still breathe.

Still find comfort.

There’s something familiar and steady about sorrow.

A closeness to what’s left.

A focus on our most instinctive habits.

Recognizing that right here and right now needs us first and most...disarming the pressure to be anywhere but in that moment.

Not a minute ahead, not a minute behind.

Just right here, intentional and in tune with every inhale and every exhale.

Sitting in the sorrow allows us to carve new depths with each breath, expanding who we are and what we’re capable of handling.

Even exposed to fear and anxiety, on our knees right in the heart of it all, there is still air.

There is still rest.

There is still comfort.

There is still peace.

Once we are steady with each breath, and open our eyes...we’ll find the water emptied.

Everything is ok.

There was always air to breathe.

In the moments leading up to removing my mask, the instructor knew my fear and anxiety and came close.

He came face to face with me.

Eye to eye.

He wanted me to know he was right there. He could help me at any moment.

He would save me.

And when I opened my eyes, he was right there.

Face to face.

Eye to eye.

He was always there.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

When our knees hit the deepest bottom, He comes in close.

He comes face to face.

Eye to eye.

He wants you to know He’s right there.

He can help at any moment.

He saves.

When we open our eyes, He is right there.

Face to face.

Eye to eye.

He’s always there.

Those heavy and hard moments bring a rawness, only soothed by One healing power.

It’s like cold aloe on a sunburn, He soothes and heals.

So whether you find yourself on your knees on the bottom of an Illinois lake or the middle of your kitchen floor...He’s always been and will always be right there.


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