Jellyfish taught me to swim.
When I was five, my father, grandmother, and I travelled from California to Florida. It was before the construction of interstates and we hugged the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a hot summer day and we stopped along a Mississippi beach to swim. I couldn’t swim, but I loved the water. I wadded out deeper and deeper until the salt water was up to my chin. Suddenly my father shouted, “Jellyfish. Get out of the water.”
Rotating my head, I saw three clear blobs, long dangling tentacles intertwined, riding the top of the waves just behind me. I swam.
I’m not sure I knew what jellyfish were back then. I’m not sure I knew they stung. It was the panic in my father’s voice that transmitted danger to me. Like the time he came home from work and found me happily playing with my new best friend. My fascinating friend crawled around in the bottom of an empty tin can with me watching it—blissfully unaware of danger. It was a scorpion.
The jellyfish incident taught me not to disrespect danger. Recognizing the danger of smoking, drugs, and alcohol has kept my life free of them. The Bible warns that “At the last they bite like a serpent, and sting like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:32) I don’t like being stung.
Don’t dis jellyfish. They can teach us how to safely navigate life.