Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lucky To Be Alive?

I was watching my cousins dipping their feet into the water from a set of steps leading into the park’s lake. I wanted to join them. I was seven years old at a family reunion. When I stepped down from the pier I slipped. Then everything went black. The next thing I remembered was my Dad carrying me back to the car slapping my back as I spit out water from my lungs.

Apparently my older sister saw me go under and screamed until a cousin, swimming nearby, saw a tuft of hair sticking out of the water and pulled me to safety. I was told that the older cousin who saved my life had pulled me out by my that little tuft of hair. I am lucky to be alive.

Many years later, a younger sibling about the same age as I was, slipped into the water of a lake at a church reunion. She had been on a hand-pushed merry-go-round with some other children and got very dizzy. She wondered off to a pier on the lake where a combination of her wooziness and the swirling water of a drain in the man-made lake made her slip into the water.

The same older sister, now a teenager, screamed as our Dad, in a row boat, rowed as fast as he could while encouraging her to pull her sister out. Like me, my younger sister went black. The next thing she remembered was our Dad pounding her on her back while spitting out water from her lungs. The sister who rescued her said she pulled her out by her hair. She is lucky to be alive.

Sharon and I at a recent book signing event.
The stories are eerily similar. That younger sibling, Sharon Clymer Landis, is the co-author of our book The Spacious Heart. The screaming sister, Jeanette Clymer Bueno, recently brought this parallel life event to our attention when she posted on Facebook:

“I have no idea why this came to me in my time of meditation and prayer the other day. Just like that it floated up in my spirit—the realization that I had a major hand in saving these exact two siblings—in separate instances—from an accidental drowning death in different but deep man-made lakes. And now these two lives have converged in a shared story that is reaching the world over. I’m still pondering and reflecting on the possible significance of this. If you feel like your faith is ‘drowning’ in a high tide of cultural shift, their book, The Spacious Heart, is for you.”

I deliberately used the word “lucky” to describe our being alive today. But was luck involved, or was it the hand of God? Did God save us for a purpose? And was that purpose to have us write a book together? Did the brush with death develop a longing in our souls to search more deeply, to ponder the mysteries of life more deliberately, to experience God in more profound ways?

Indeed, except for the near drowning incident, our lives couldn’t have been more different. She is female, I am male. She is an introvert, I am an extrovert. She is reserved and quiet, I am loud and boisterous. She spent her adult life on the same farm, I have lived in four states and four different countries. She shuns public or private attention. I love the limelight.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, says there is no such thing as a coincidence. When events seem coincidental, like our near drowning, Jung would see it as part of a universal collective unconscious connection. I call it a God moment.

From what is seemingly divergent experiences and personalities, Sharon’s and my lives have converged in a search for an experience of God beyond the typical religious forms and practices. This convergence produced a book. Is that a coincidence or a God moment?

Are we lucky to be alive? Yes. But we are also using that “coincidence” to proclaim the wonder and mysteries of God. Although I was completely unconscious of the synchronicity (Jung’s word for coincidence) until my sister Jeanette pointed it out, I believe that the near drowning played a direct role in bringing Sharon’s and my divergent lives together to produce a book.


  1. How interesting. I continue to be fascinated by the spiritual power of memory. It's interesting that your Jeanette was in prayer and meditation when the realization "floated up." So glad you are both here and that God has called you to write. BTW, I had a near-drowning experience also -- in third grade. In a farm pond. Saved by a classmate at school.

  2. Thank you for the comments, and your support, Shirley! Another near drowning! Oh, my. I like "the spiritual power of memory." Memory can be both life giving and demonic. I depends on how we chose to deal with it.

  3. I never take near-drowning stories lightly, because we have known of course those who have succumbed. Your sister's connecting these two stories at this time is goose bumpy. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your comments, Melodie. It is indeed surprising that neither Sharon or I made the connection. Perhaps the fact that she was a significant part of our salvation, it was etched in her memory.