In 2013, I took classes to become open-water scuba certified. This had long been a dream of mine, joined with my passions for swimming and exploration.
Most people who scuba dive do it with a partner. People do this for two reasons, the first being that it is a requirement for scuba certification. You have to undergo a great deal of training, practice and experience to attain certification for solo diving. This is because scuba diving can be dangerous, and you need to be prepared to manage a number of difficult scenarios that might be averted if you had a dive partner or buddy.
This brings me to our second reason why people dive with a buddy: Scuba diving can be dangerous. Diving with a buddy is a great source of comfort because each of you is more or less keeping an eye on the other to make sure nothing goes wrong, like running out of oxygen, equipment malfunctions, injury, incident, miscalculations and so forth.
As you undergo training, you become accustomed to checking in with your dive buddy, using the hand symbol for “OK” to check in with each other. If all is well, you continue your dive. If there is an issue, you “discuss” it underwater through various symbols or the use of underwater writing materials. If your buddy is in trouble, so are you. It is your job as dive partners to help each other have a good, safe dive.
In 1 Kings 17:7-15, we read the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath and her son. In this passage, we learn of Elijah’s great need and the lack of provision the widow and her son have. Yet, even with their meager resources (the widow is about to cook their last meal and wait to die), the widow makes a cake of bread for Elijah as requested.
In an interesting turn of events, the jar of flour and oil she uses to make this bread keeps replenishing; a miracle happens in their midst at the Lord’s doing. This story speaks to me of how the church should be active in the world. We should be like the widow from Zarephath and help those around us as best we can. Like scuba divers, we should check in with one another to see if they are “OK” and if we find they are not, then we should do our best to step in and help, someway, somehow.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” This is how the church and her people should be. The church should be a resource to people in all kinds of need, whether due to an emergency, minimal resources, grief, addiction and more.
But part of the way this happens well is through the collaboration of churches and institutions, working together to help those in need. Instead of assuming we know the needs of others, we should ask, we should work together, and see how we might help each other to navigate this world with success and joy, helping everyone to have a good, safe “dive.” When everybody looks out for everyone else, we all fair better.
God, help us to do better about standing in the gap in each other’s lives. Open our eyes to see each other as sister and brother, that we might not be content with the suffering of another. Help us to never grow weary in service, but empower us to be agents of change in our communities and our world. Amen.
Michelle Strall is pastor of Antioch United Methodist Church in Gainesville.