Reflections on how I learn to live life with faith.
So, last week, I went on a short family holiday to Cairns. For those who are unaware, Cairns is a region in the state of Queensland in Australia. It is also known as the Tropical North of Queensland as the weather up there is very tropical. Cairns is one of the popular holiday destinations for Australian families as it is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. And so it is common for my friends and colleagues who are migrants to be unfamiliar with ‘Cairns’ but will know where it is once I mention, “Great Barrier Reef”.
I like travelling. Once a month, I get the travel bug. And every six months, I try to go out of my comfort zone and have a holiday bonanza. Six months ago, I went flashpacking with my friend to Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines & Hong Kong). And six months before that, I’ve gone back to the Philippines and explored Boracay, Baguio, La Union, Palawan, Ilocos, Manila, Pangasinan, Batangas and Cebu.
I describe my travels as more on the budget side where I don’t like travelling with luxury. I don’t like spending so much on airfare or hotels, but I prefer to splurge on the experience. I prefer the old routine of travelling with a light backpack (or light luggage), and can stand sleeping on the floor. I don’t brag on my photography or videography skills but I am fond of investing on good MM equipments and always have my mac with me so I can document on my travels to share to my family (see my Youtube page). I like searching the travel blogs and backpackers forum to see the road less taken, and introduce an unknown place to my social media friends (i.e. Antong Falls in Pangasinan where it is not a commercialised place and we had to ask the Barangay Captain to take us there; or the creamy white sand in Bolinao).
There are two main activities that I like when I travel — trekking and snorkelling. It comes as a surprise that I like to snorkel knowing that I do not know how to swim. I’ve gone to secret beaches and hidden lagoons in El Nido, Palawan without proper knowledge in swimming (I just had to place my trust on our tour guide that he will swim on my behalf and I will just follow him). I’d like to thank the inventors of the life-vest that helps me to stay afloat while I keep looking down and breathing through the snorkelling gear every time I go snorkelling.
It was so boastful of me to take such pride in knowing how to snorkel. I was really looking forward to the trip in Cairns and snorkel through the Great Barrier Reef. Even practiced snorkelling with my brothers in the swimming pool of our hotel and at Nudey Beach at Fitzroy Island. I had this confidence in me that a person who doesn’t know how to swim can go snorkelling into the Great Barrier Reef because I have a life-vest on!
Our third day in Cairns marked our adventure to the Great Barrier Reef. There’s no denying that I was really excited to go snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. I was expecting to encounter a lot of corals and marine life — particularly seeing Nemo (clownfish), Dory (Blue Tang), and Squirt (Turtle).
My brothers went on a different cruise while I went with my parents on the Sunlover cruise. The cruise that my brothers went to had introductory scuba lessons, which I would think that my parents will not really participate nor appreciate (because like me, they do not know how to swim). Fortunately, the cruise we went to had other activities that are available where we can still appreciate the Great Barrier Reef without having to swim (i.e. semi-submarine tour, glass bottom boat, fish feeding, and the underwater observatory).
Upon finishing all the non-swimming activities on the cruise, we’re now left with one activity — snorkelling. It was actually great that the cruise had an orientation session about snorkelling particularly for those who have never gone snorkelling before. They also provided guests with snorkelling gears, which was great.
So here comes the part where I swallowed my great pride in knowing how to snorkel — upon entering the water, I realised that no matter how many times I have done this activity before…. snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. And to get a picture of why… Imagine this: OCEAN + Marine life (including man-eating predators) then there’s you.
It was probably so naive of me not to think things through as “ohhh yeaaahhhh… REEF… great barrier REEF! Of course its under the OCEAN!” I’ve snorkelled around beaches and lagoons where I was comfortable enough to see the marine floor or even the sea shore. I was comfortable enough that I can easily manoeuvre myself into a safe haven anytime. But the ocean is a completely different experience. Snorkelling the ocean was the scariest thing for me. To see no marine floor but the darkening depth of the ocean, not knowing if predators may appear and strike you at any moment, plus the strong current that pushes you further and further away from the ship regardless of how hard you flap your fins and even if you have a life vest on. So what I ended up doing was to snorkel around the ship (like literally holding the ship) and I was happy enough to see a lot of fishes swimming around me. And nope, I did not go near any corals, nor even swam further away from the ship.
I guess I was naive. I was a newbie. Boohoo… But to be honest, I was concentrating more on staying alive while I was snorkelling than enjoying the activity itself. It probably has only taken me 5 minutes to do that activity then I’ve decided to go back to the ship. I was really scared. Perhaps I was paranoid.
When I was already inside the ship, I went to see the view of the entire ocean. Then I talked to God in amazement… “wow, You made this!“. In amazement I realised, our Father created this! From nothing, He created this! From nothing, He created light! From nothing, He created creatures! The heavens were made by the word of the LORD, and all the stars (including the SUN and all those stars bigger than the sun), by the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6). For He spoke, and it came into being; He commanded, and it came into existence (Psalm 33:9). HE’S SO GREAT! HE’S SO MIGHTY! HE’S SO AWESOME! HE’S SO POWERFUL!
He’s a master of art, He designed and created this wonderful creation we see on earth (even the ones that are yet to be discovered or are beyond what man can see or reach). He breathed life into it. No man can even create someone into life by breathing into his own creation. HE IS GOD.
And so, looking back to my vulnerable state when I was snorkelling in the ocean… I realised how a dispensable creature I am… how I can easily give in to my fears and can easily die (if suddenly a shark attacks me — one of my paranoias at that time). But no matter how small I am, no matter how small of a creature I am compared to the whole universe… a big God like Him loves and cares for me. He created so many things, yet He knows and He calls me by name… He knows the number of strands in my hair… He has the greatest and best plans for me.
And I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for God’s grace — for Jesus saving a sinner like me because He loves me (John 3:16). A small person like me, who was concentrating on living while snorkelling in the ocean —- God protected me. Honestly, even if I die, I know I’ll be going to heaven, however, my fear in me really wanted me to think that I am not ready to die.
I had my fears, but God looked after me. When currents and waves were strong, He guided me even when my heart was pounding and was full of fear. He called me, I belong to His family, and He protected me — nothing can take me away from His hands. And even if I claim to know everything, I’m humbled to know that I still don’t know things and in whatever circumstance I may be in, I’ll just have to keep my eyes on my faith and as the song goes: “And I will call upon Your name- And keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace. For I am Yours and You are mine.”
O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions. There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great. – Psalm 104: 24-25.