Deep Waters

by Sandy Johnson

Growing up in the Swedish pietistic tradition, I heard the question many times: "Are you saved?" I wondered how I would know. How could I be sure I was "saved?" Having experienced the grace of God in many ways in my now-more than-50 years, I would ask the question differently: "What is it like to be saved?" — to experience the grace of God?

Let me tell you a story. It is a story about deep waters. It is, for me, an experience of Grace.

I think I was about nine-years-old. My sister (three years younger) and I were having our last chance to play in the water, as Mom and Dad were packing up to leave the little cottage on the shore of Long Pond. Our vacation there was over. My sister and I were cautioned, I'm sure, to stay close to the shore. But my sister and I were having too much fun to notice we were getting out deeper.

I could swim; and she had learned to dog-paddle. I was giving her a ride on my back — piggy-back style with her arms around my shoulders. She felt light in the water. We were laughing and splashing and having a great time! But — all of a sudden, when I tried to touch bottom, it wasn't there. I was in over my head and my sister had her arms around my neck and shoulders.

In panic, I tried to see where the shore was, but my sister had also realized we were in over our heads and she grabbed on tighter. I tried to undo her clasp on my neck, but she only held on tighter. I went under.

I fought to get to the surface for air — and to tell her to let go and dog-paddle to shore. But she couldn't let go — she was too scared. I gasped for some air and went down under again.

I was scared, too. I couldn't hold my breath any longer. I remember opening my eyes wide under the water — seeing the water churning all around me and not knowing which way was up anymore.

I gulped in the water without air. I desperately fought to undo my sister's clasp. Finally, I said to myself — "This is it. I'm drowning. There's nothing more I can do" — as I gulped in more water.

I felt myself let go and begin to sink. Seconds later (it must have been) I vaguely remember Being Grasped!

Something inside me opened up again, and I went limp. Later, I learned that I was in my dad's strong grasp — both my sister and I were. He was swimming us to shore.

I woke on the shore — choking and coughing up water. And there was my dad standing over us, soaking wet — clothes, shoes, watch, and all. He had not hesitated a second when he saw the churning and splashing in deep water. He had been packing the car when he saw us going down in the water.

What is it like to be saved?

As I was remembering and writing down this story, that question came to my mind. I could still feel all of the fear and the letting go and the amazing grace of being grasped. I was totally grasped and supported by my dad's strong arm and love.

Many times in my life, I have felt lost and I have experienced the Grace of Being Grasped — of being found again. This is one of those deep themes that comes out of life — it comes many times to most people. Maybe it comes to you.

God understands us/Stands under us — Grasps us with the strong arm of Grace — even like the unquestioning love of a parent.

Thanks be to God!

Sandy Johnson, copy-editor emeritus of Pietisten, earned her PhD in Organization and Development at the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis where she attends Bethlehem Covenant Church.

See all articles by Sandy Johnson