Jellyfish and sin: why we avoid one and not the other

By Mikaleh Offerman, Copy Editor

I like to think of myself as the female Indiana Jones.

In my imagination, I’m the girl who’s unafraid to climb mountains and go on dangerous adventures.

Like Mulan, my favorite Disney princess, I often visualize myself breaking a bunch of rules, joining the military, cutting my hair and fighting foes who are threatening my honor and my country.

Then reality sinks in and I remember that I’m overly attached to my hair, I’m afraid of breaking rules and I’m more of a verbal lover than a physical fighter.

I do love to snorkel, though.

My first experience with snorkeling was when I was seven.

We went on a short Disney cruise, and off the coast of one of the islands, there was a little cove that had a bunch of Disney implanted, underwater sights to see.

My dad, brother and I spent the whole afternoon exploring, and I decided that I was officially a snorkeler.

Over a decade later and I still consider myself a snorkeling adventurer. So, when my family went to the beach during spring break, I was determined to snorkel.

On the decided day, the Adventuring Trio, also known as Dad, Cam and I, kayaked out a little way from the beach.

My mom and Nana sat on the shore along with several other beach-goers.

They were all enjoying the beautiful day, but mostly I think they were overly entertained by Nana’s running commentary on anything and everything.

Dad agreed to stay in the kayak and make sure it didn’t float away while my brother and I took to the water.

Much like Indiana Jones wielding his whip, I slipped my goggles over my face, blew the water out of my snorkel tube and dove into the crystal clear water.

It was the perfect day for snorkeling. The sun warmed my back as I floated on top of the waves, watching several fish dance in the swaying seaweed.

Occasionally, I would dive down and pick up a sea shell, but for the most part, I was content to float, while my brother, the true adventurer, chased after fish and splashed my dad with his aggressive kicking stroke.

I can only assume that it was his splashing which disturbed the fish and other animals, causing the following events.

At some point, I drifted towards the kayak where my dad was dutifully keeping watch. My goggles were fogging up, so I came out of the water to fix them.

Once they were secured back to my face, I resumed my expert floating position.

As I did, I noticed an odd bit of water about the size of my fist a couple of feet below me.

It was rapidly moving out of the mess of mud and muck that my brother had so brilliantly stirred up, directly towards my exposed and vulnerable stomach.

It took a fair amount of squinting to figure out what it was, and when I did, I froze.

A jellyfish.

A real-life, stinging, pee-on-you-to-stop-the-pain jellyfish.

I’d seen enough pictures of jellyfish stings to know that I wanted nothing to do with that.

For most people, adrenaline is helpful. It pushes them to accomplish incredible feats, like lift cars off of trapped babies, and, in Indiana Jones’ case, avoid danger and save the damsel. Not so with me.

For me, with adrenaline comes its trusty sidekick: panic.

Thus, adrenaline flooded my veins, and I panicked. At that point, the jellyfish was only a foot away from my body. In my panic induced state, I logically deduced that I needed to move out of stinging-range.

Going downward was clearly out of the question, so it would have to be a horizontal escape. As I frantically kicked to the side, I ran into my first problem.

The jellyfish, like a fox hunting a rabbit, was following me. In hindsight, it was likely just moving with the current, but rational thinking was out of the question in that moment. It was a fight or flight scenario and this was the time to fly.

(Note: Photographic evidence that I survived is pictured above–taken a few hours after the incident–including an approximate location of the sighting).

My second problem was this: I have seen “Finding Nemo.” An unwanted image of thousands of jellyfish swarming me entered my mind.

Since I couldn’t move down and sideways could have pushed me into more jellyfish, I chose the next available geometrical plane: up.

I catapulted out of the water, screaming like a lunatic. All I knew was that I did not want any part of my body dangling like bait in the water.

Caught in the throes of adrenaline, I somehow ended up with my legs on the end of the kayak, and my back parallel to the water in a sideways sitting position.

Startled, my father clutched the sides of the tipping plastic boat he had been peacefully enjoying.

For reasons still unknown, I was attempting to slide upwards onto the kayak, feet first. Unfortunately, I lacked the core strength to pull the rest of my body up.

The next several minutes were filled with my yowling, my dad trying to push me off the kayak to save it from tipping over and me battling him to stay on.

Eventually, he shoved me off, and I climbed in from a more intelligent angle.

At that point, the adventure of snorkeling had lost all of its appeal.

My hair was a tangled mess, and I had salt water in my eyes.

I turned towards the shore to see how far we had drifted out, only to discover that a group of people had gathered around my mother, who was conveniently taking pictures, to watch the debacle that had just unfolded right in front of them.

Mortified, I sank down in my seat.

Since then, I’ve thought about that moment often.

It was ridiculous. I lost my mind at the sight of a very small jellyfish, which posed only a slight danger to me.

I’m also not a true adventurer. I don’t like danger, and I have an unfortunate tendency to overreact in the face of minor threats.

But, that’s only when it comes to physical danger. Spiritually, I do the opposite. Most of the time, I don’t even recognize the danger until after the fact.

I wonder how different my life would be if I treated sin with the same avoidance that I gave that jellyfish.

What if instead of participating in a seemingly minor thing like gossip, I literally turned tail and sprinted away from it? That seems extreme, but Jesus tells us that if one part of our body sins, we should cut it off.

Matthew 5:29-3 tells us “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

There’s a middle ground in there somewhere, but the bottom line is this: how often do I even recognize spiritual danger, let alone treat it with the caution I should?

How often do I scramble from sin, leap into the safety of redemption and embrace grace with Indiana Jones-esque fervor? Not nearly as often.

Granted, sin isn’t as readily identifiable as a jellyfish, but the two have much in common.

Both are seemingly camouflaged by its surroundings, both appear somewhat mundane at times (almost peaceful—further illustrating their deception) and both create consequences that worsen exponentially.

Surely sin would be much easier to avoid if we all embraced our inner adventurer and frantically sought spiritual rescue.

After all, the consequences of rejecting that sinful nature are much more profound than an uncomfortable moment on the beach or a photo of a bedraggled adventurer.

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