“The victim loses consciousness, stops struggling, and gives up the rest of their air.” This description of drowning became reality to me as I slipped under the water.

It all happened during my last year of high school. Our senior class went on a cruise to the Bahamas, specifically to the island resort called Coco Cay. We spent most of the day doing various fun activities like volleyball, foot racing and snorkeling. Toward the end of the day, a few of my friends and I decided to go swimming before it got too late and saw wooden pallets anchored out in the ocean for us to swim to. We swam to each pallet, going farther and farther from the shoreline until we reached the last one. I don’t think my arms can work after this, I thought as a collapsed from exhaustion by my friends.

Minutes later, we heard our chaperones shouting from shore at everyone to hurry up and return to the ship before sunset. “Yo! We need to head back soon if we are still gonna get food,” said Janz as he dove back into the water and headed for the shore. Two of my other friends, Jared and Dave, quickly went too, with the absurd athletic strength they still had to keep swimming. Thinking I had recovered enough, I too dove into the water as the last person.

During my swim, I could feel all my strength leaving because I was still exhausted. I’ll try that thing my uncle taught me, I thought. So I rolled to my back tried floating to rest and gain strength. But the ocean waves prevented this and eventually, I got pulled underwater. Attempting to get back to the surface, I flailed my arms and legs, but it only helped keep my head bobbing. After realizing the seriousness of the situation, my heart began to race. “HELP! HELP! PLEASE, LIFEGUARD!” I screamed louder than ever before in my life not knowing if anyone was around to hear me. My body became fully submerged and I could feel myself inhaling sea water. The only thing that came to my mind was God.

I knew I couldn’t speak but as my mind started getting dizzy I prayed. “Please help me, God! Don’t let this be the end for me! I want to live this life You gave me!” I screamed internally. I could feel my subconscious fading in and out when I suddenly felt a strong hand pull me out of the water and onto a flat board. I gasped for air then started coughing up all the saltwater I had just swallowed. “Woah! You okay there, son?” asked the lifeguard who had just saved me. Unable to really talk, I nodded and gave a thumbs up. I was taken to shore, where the nurse on duty took care of me. After feeling better, I tried looking for the lifeguard who rescued me, but after asking around, it seemed the lifeguard had just disappeared.

Whether he was an actual lifeguard or an angel sent by God, I was grateful for what God had done for me. After that experience, my spiritual walk became much more important in my life. I wanted to know why God had saved me and when I thought of the question this verse popped into my head: “Don’t fear because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB). Just like when Jesus pulled Peter out of the water when the storm was rough, God will pull us out of storms in our lives that are too big for us to handle on our own. And His hand is way stronger than any lifeguard’s.

Shiloh Baillou is a junior communication major at Union College.