February 2015 was a very cold in eastern North Carolina. For several weeks the daytime highs rarely rose above freezing, and the nights were in the lower teens and sometimes single-digit temperatures. There had also been three snows in seven days, and all of nature was covered in a glistening, white blanket.
My one-acre pond was completely frozen over, the ice an inch or more thick in some spots. With the snow covering it, unless you knew the pond was there, it would have been very easy to mistake it for solid, snow-covered ground.
Toby Dog forgot. It was a day I’ll never forget; it is forever burned into my memory.
That day, Toby spied a groundhog on the far side of the pond. In the heat of the chase, Toby chose the shortest route to the groundhog – a straight line, straight across the frozen pond. Daddy happened to be there, and we stood at the living room windows and watched in horror as he sped across the ice. Five feet from the far side, just a few feet short of safety, the ice gave and Toby crashed through the ice and went under.
I have never moved as quickly as I did that day. I ran to the far side of the pond, and plunged in the edge, my fingertips less than four feet from Toby. I called, reached for him, at the same time screaming prayers for God to help me. In confusion, Toby began to swim away from me, going back the way he came in, the long way across the pond, breaking ice and occasionally going under. I started in after him, and immediately realized my winter hikers were dragging me down; I couldn’t swim with them on.
Toby was still moving in the opposite direction from me, breaking the ice a little at the time. I ran to the other side of the pond, still screaming out prayers to God. I sat down on the frozen ground in the snow and removed my hikers and socks. Daddy had gotten a rope out of his truck, and I looped it around my neck and shoulder and went into the frozen pond.
Immediately my body reacted to the icy water; I instantly lost my breath and began to gasp. For a minute I felt needle-like sensations over my entire body before complete numbness set in. In seconds I was in water over my head. I clung to ice with both hands, used my chin to break a path in front of me, and then dug in my fingernails to pull myself forward. Time passed in slow motion; I couldn’t breathe and became nauseous. As I pulled myself forward, I continued to pray and kept my eyes focused on Toby, telling him to hang on, Mama was coming. His eyes were bulging and dilated in fright; his loud cries of fear will haunt me forever.
Inch by laborious inch I pulled myself forward. When I finally reached Toby, he was in shock and did not recognize me for a few seconds. I slipped the rope through his collar and began the long swim back through the broken path of ice, Toby slung across my back like a sack of flour. We were in below freezing water for over 30 minutes, and made it to shore with only a few minor cuts (Toby sliced a paw pad), scratches and broken fingernails and doggie toenails.
It is only by God’s Hand and the protection of His angels that Toby Dog and I survived that day. When I was in the ice, I knew beyond any doubt that regardless of the outcome, God was there and His angels were keeping me afloat and breaking the ice for me.
You’re probably thinking, “Wow, what a story! But what does this have to do with my health journey?” It reminds me of Matthew 14:24 – 31, where Peter walks on the water. There are several things we can learn from this story and can apply to any situation we face, even the struggle to stick to a healthy lifestyle.
- Jesus cares about everything you do, including your struggles to exercise and eat healthy. He wants us to talk with Him about all of our worries and fears, and promises to bring us through them. It seems easier to take the path of least resistance and stay in the boat. However, true unity with God will only come when we put complete trust in Him and get out of the boat and “walk on the water.” God cares about your journey to better health; trust Him and ask for his help!
- As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to miraculously walk on the water. But he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves. Peter lost his Jesus-focus, fear set in and he began to sink. We do the very same thing when it comes to dieting and exercise. We focus on everything else that is happening around us and look at the size of the “waves.” You have to keep your eyes on Jesus and never turn to look at the obstacles or impossibilities. Keep your eyes on Him and not the challenges and you will succeed!
- When we mess up, such as skipping a workout or binge on something we know we shouldn’t eat, we tend to immediately give up and let ourselves think, “Okay, I’m done, I can never do this!” We allow ourselves to sink into the waves of defeat. Don’t do that to yourself – we all have bad days. It doesn’t mean that you are defeated, you simply had a setback. The wonderful news is that you can always start fresh right that minute – I’ve done it many times! We all make mistakes, and when we do we need to cry out to Jesus for help just as Peter did. Jesus is there, waiting for you to ask for help and will hold His hand out to you and help you.
- Sometimes, we doubt whether Jesus can really help us. We ask for His help, but deep inside we cannot fully understand the Spirit’s true power. Just as when I was in the icy water, breaking the way with my chin, clawing forward inches at the time, I had no idea of the Spiritual realm that was at war around me, fighting for my life and protecting me. It was only later that I had time to think and process what had happened that I realized that God’s Spirit was in me, helping me. Don’t for a minute doubt that you can succeed on your journey to good health. Have complete confidence in Jesus’ power!
What waves are you looking at that are causing you to take your eyes off of Jesus? Know this – there is no fear that is bigger than God and can keep you from making lasting, healthy changes!
Zechariah 4:6: So he said to me, “This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”
Father God, you are truly an awesome, amazing God. I know that You care about every single little detail of my life, including my goals to honor You by becoming healthy. Help me to remember that when I struggle, all I have to do is call out to You for help. Thank You, Jesus! In Your precious name I pray, Amen.