Sandbar-standing, dolphin-touching rock star - JJ Landis
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Sandbar-standing, dolphin-touching rock star

Fearis a comfortable companion to many of us. It’s my first instinct when my kids are sick or when I send them off to a friend’s house or school. Or when I have an unusual ache or my husband isn’t home on time. Dread. I am always certain, certain, that my worries will be realized. The worst case scenario is always expected. If death is a possibility, I know it will come.

Learning not to fear is hard for a lot of us, whether we fear pain, death. Bugs, germs. Kidnapping, monsters. Loneliness, aging. Sickness, storms.

Even though Jesus gives us these words: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27. But yet, we worry.

Lee and I lived in Pensacola, Florida, for six months early on in our marriage. The beaches looked more like snow than sand, so white. We were away from all our friends and family and didn’t have any kids yet, so most of our free time was spent on the beach. We occupied entire days lounging, walking, swimming, fishing in the surf. Then we drove the three miles back to our second floor apartment on Scenic Highway and napped. What a life.

The trouble with a carefree life is when you’re living it, you usually don’t know enough to appreciate it.

In that paradise, the water was often clear and the sun bright. We could see a sandbar about a hundred yards out. Sometimes we saw dolphins swimming just beyond it.

Picture from www.visitpensacolabeach.com

One afternoon during our Sabbath on the sand, Lee put down his book and declared, “I am going to swim out to the dolphins!”



Know that Lee grew up on a farm with two brothers. He is strong and determined, like a farmer. And fearless, like a middle brother.

He waded in and swam away. I, lethargic from the sun and salt, blurry-eyed from reading, squinted toward the sea and watched him grown smaller. The sandbar looked close enough – not once did I doubt Lee’s ability to make it. I even expected him to touch a dolphin. He was Lee Landis, my super hero, after all.

I was no stranger to water. I grew up vacationing at the Great Lakes and in Florida. My northern Indiana hometown is surrounded by lakes. I water skied. However, one comforting aspect of skiing is the life-jacket. Keeps one from needing to actually swim.

I even went Scuba diving in the Bahamas in my early 20s. But with diving, the idea is to sink (and then not get bitten by a Barracuda or snacked on by sharks). A friend to us all, oxygen, is strapped to your face. Let’s face it, in reality, scuba diving is a lot easier than the breast stroke.

But through it all, my strongest swimming stroke remained reserved for dogs. I never learned the proper way to get from point A to point B. Treading is easy for me, but that gets me nowhere.

At the beach, I typically ventured no more than knee-deep in the water. It was enough.

But with the new husband of mine and my fluttery desire to impress him, I followed him.

Seriously, it didn’t look that far. Until I started to swim.


Whatever buoyancy is offered by the salt in the water is negated by the current. The ocean is a different animal than a pool or a lake. I admit I didn’t put much thought into my journey to the sandbar, just wanted to be with Lee and let him know his wife was a dolphin-touching, sandbar-standing rock star.

About halfway to the sandbar, I panicked, and thus made the fear-driven decision to turn around and find my way to solid ground.

Terror grew as I faced the shore. The more I swam, the farther away the sandcastles, the umbrellas, the hotels, the sunbathers looked.

Lee, by this time, had reached his destination and didn’t know I was struggling. I looked at the people on shore while I doggie paddled and gasped. And they all had the nerve to continue on with their happy business. An afternoon at the beach, blissful. No one noticing at all that I was about to drown, mere yards from their idyllic existence.

Then. I gave up. Lost my strength. My body surrendered to the sea. I relaxed, ready to face death. Tears mixed with ocean water.

How long until Lee figured out I was missing? Would they ever find my body? I was going to be a headline.

With that capitulation, when my arms and legs ceased their flailing, something soft grazed the bottom of my foot.

What? Are you kidding me?

The. Ocean. Floor.

It was there all along ready to hold me, to be a steady foothold, to save my life and save me from my fear.

How long did I fight when the water was shallow? I could have stood firm.

I tried to reach that sandbar, the dolphins, my husband, with my own strength, of which I had little.

One of the first verses I memorized from the Bible was Isaiah 41:10.

That day in the Gulf of Mexico, it became real:

“Do not fear, for I am with you


Do not be dismayed, for I am your God


I will strengthen you and help you;


I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

How many times am I afraid and full of worry when I don’t need to be? I try to swim through life and fight the current using my own measly muscles when all I have to do is Stand. On God. Stand on God and trust that the ground is vast and sturdy.
2 Comments
  • Anonymous
    Posted at 12:45h, 23 October Reply

    Can I use some of the content from your site on mine? I will make sure to link back to it 🙂

  • Brenda Lazzaro Yoder,
    Posted at 17:25h, 21 October Reply

    I like the simple statement in your last night – God’s ground is vast and sturdy. I needed to hear that today.

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