Rip Current Dangers for Struggling Parents

Living an hour from the beaches in Florida, I sometimes hear news reports of drownings on one of the area beaches caused by rip currents.  It occurs to me that having a child who is has problems with alcohol or drugs, is in a out of jail, suffers from mental illness, engages in self harm, has an eating disorder, is suicidal at times, is promiscuous, lives a gay lifestyle, etc. is like being caught in a rip current.  We are in imminent danger.   We feel like we are drowning!  Help!

A rip current is is a strong channel of water flowing out to sea from near the shore.  They can occur in oceans, seas or even lakes.  Rips (as they are also called) can be extemely dangerous to swimmers, dragging them away from the beach and the safety of the shallows.  The average rate of speed of a rip is 1 to 2 feet per second and up to 8 feet per second.  That’s really fast!  Death by drowning comes following exhaustion while fighting the ocean current.  Someone who is not even swimming just simply standing in waist deep water can also be dragged into deeper waters where they can drown if they are unable to swim and are not wearing a flotation device.

Our children’s troubles can sneak up on us and yank our feet right out from under us, dragging us out to the deep waters of fear, shame, guilt, anger, resentment, enabling, sorrow and more.  We thought we were in safe waters after doing it all “right”!  Now we struggle to break free and make our way back to the shore where all is calm, but we just can’t do it.  It’s as though we are caught in this fast moving channel.  I found the more I tried to get out of this in my own strength it just didn’t work.  I quickly suffered from exhaustion – emotional, physical and spiritual.  This experience is so incredibly draining.  It saps even the strongest person of all their reserves.  Before you know what is happening your life is in danger.  You are “ripped”!

How can you escape from a rip current?  Contrary to what you may think it is not by doing what seems natural to you, attempting to swim back to shore directly against the rip. This risks exhaustion and drowning.  You see, a rip is too powerful.  It also does not pull a swimmer under water, it carries them away from the shore and out to deeper waters where there is no foothold.  It’s like a treadmill they can’t get off.  Caught in its powerful forces and being pulled out to sea panic sets in.  However, the swimmer needs to stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until they are outside of the current. Then, locations to aim for are places where waves are breaking. In these areas, they can catch a wave and body surf easily towards the shore and back to safety.

Do you feel caught in a rip current?  Caught on a vicious emotional treadmill you can’t get off?  Do you feel yourself being pulled away from the safety of the shore, where your emotional stability was?  Has fear and panic set in?  In my experience relief only came when I finally quit fighting against what was happening, moved out of shock and denial, faced my fears, and accepted there was a problem I couldn’t handle.

When I stopped trying to fix my daughter and make her change . . . when I finally surrendered her back to God . . . when I let go and let Him work, that is when I regained my foothold and found peace.  That is when the rip lost its power over me.

I had to work hard though.  Learning to “float” was really hard, just like when I was a kid.   I was so full of fear.  What if I leaned back and the swim instructor or my parents didn’t hold me up?  Leaning back in my Lifeguard’s arms, relaxing  and trusting in him — this is where I found freedom from the affects of the “rip current”.  This is how I made my way back to shore . . . and it wasn’t under my own strength.

So, according to my research, here are the things you can do to survive being caught in the dangers of a rip :

1)  Relax, then calmly float or tread water.  Eventually the rip will lose its strength and you can swim diagonally back to shore at your leisure.

2)  Swim where there are lifeguards on duty.

This is your only hope for survival.

Are you in danger of drowning?  Have you learned to float?  Are you learning to overcome your natural responses that aren’t really helping, but might actually be hurting you?  Do you need to overcome your fears so you can lean back in your Father’s arms and trust him to hold you up in deep waters?  Do you need to be rescued by your heavenly Lifeguard?

God can be that for you.  He is always on duty.  There is nowhere you can “swim” that he is not.  If you feel caught in a dangerous rip current because of your child’s destructive behaviors, He will rescue you if you call out to him for help.   He can bring you safely back to shore.

Two Bible verses that comes to my mind are:

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  (Deuteronomy 33:27)

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine.

when you pass through the waters (the rip currents), I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . .

For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . .

Since you are precious and honored in my sight and becasue I love you . . .

Do not be afraid, for I AM WITH YOU.”  (Isaiah 43:1-5)


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