Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jesus Safe Tender Extreme

From chapter 3 of Jesus Safe Tender Extreme, by Adrian Plass, published by Zondervan 2006

Many years ago when I was on holiday in Denmark with the family, we went to one of those theme parks that offers lots of different rides and activities for children. Bridget went off with our oldest son to do a ‘mum with oldest son’ thing, while I took the other three on a trip down a fast-flowing river in a little round boat. From the beginning this boat felt ominously unstable. Despite stern warnings from me, the two boys started to rock their bodies and leaned down backwards towards the water until, at a point where there was a curve in the river, the boat overturned and my two sons, my four-year-old daughter, and I were thrown into the water.
At this time I was still a non-swimmer, and simply being under the water induced an immediate panic. To make matters worse, my body had somehow become trapped between the rim of the overturned boat and the bank of the river, so that I was unable to reach the surface to draw breath.

I was terrified. Unless I fought free, or someone else helped me, I was likely to drown. I had no idea what had happened to my sons, but because they are strong swimmers, I hoped and assumed that they would have reached the bank with no difficulty. What about Kate? A dreadful knot of ultimate sadness seemed to tie itself around my insides as I speculated on the fate of my darling little daughter.

All to these reactions, the panic, the fear, and the weight of sadness, were perfectly normal ones. The other reaction, the one that happens on that objective level, was completely different. You may find this difficult to believe, and I don’t blame you, but it is quite true.

Down there in the damp darkness, with the weight of all these things pressing on me and no visible prospect of a solution, a very distinct part of my mind was coolly assessing the potential of this situation for eventual use in a literary context. Perhaps a magazine article, or a story that would make some telling point when I was speaking to a group somewhere. Possibly the whole thing could be adapted and absorbed into a fictional project at some point in the future.

The little man with a notebook who lives at the back of my head scribbled busily away, noting with interest the various nuances of panic and fear, the exact sensations that accompany drowning, and the emotions evoked by the imminent loss of those whom you love. He was just on the point of starting a new piece under the heading ‘First Encounters with God’ when I managed to struggle free from my trap. I arrived, gasping, in the life-giving air, to discover that all three of my children were safe, thank God, and the industrious little man nodded interestingly as he flipped over his page and began a new one entitled ‘The Anatomy of Relief.’

As far as I am aware, my spontaneous feelings were not and are not in any way diluted by this objectivity. It is just that my mind seems to have trained itself to be interested, absorbed, and mentally engaged by anything and everything that happens to me, whether those things are good, evil tragic, hilarious, or just plain tedious (tedium can be electrifying, believe me!). When I apply these observations to my writing, I am, hopefully, able to reproduce the responses that occur on a normal level, purely because that heartless little man in my head has taken such comprehensive notes.
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