During the summer while in college, my closest friends and I were lifeguards at a water park. Being a lifeguard was an awesome job to have and no two days were ever alike. The pros of being a guard definitely exceeded the cons. I’ll give you a few of each.
Some stuff that was less than desirable:
- 30,000 people in the park on one hot day.
- Cleaning the bathrooms (Yeah, we did that. Oh, and ladies, you are disgusting.)
- Large people, small bathing suits.
- Working in the kiddie pool. Oh. My. Gosh.
- Shutting down the wave pool.
More often than you would like to imagine, we had to close the wave pool down because someone threw up or pooped. I’m not talking about the funny-in-movies Baby Ruth drop in the water. I’m talking about the not-funny-in-real-life deuce in the pool. How do we get it out you ask? Well, we have to get it ourselves. Unless you are a supervisor like my buddies and I were. Then, you find the closest lifeguard and have them do it. While this guard is getting the poo out of the pool, the rest of us come up with creative reasons why the pool is closed.
I told one little boy that there were sharks in the pool and that’s why the lifeguard had a net. I told him to let me know if he saw one. A few minutes later he came back and told me he spotted a shark!
Another time, we had just closed the pool and a gaggle of geese landed right in the middle pool. An adult man came up to me and said “oh cool, you closed the pool to let the birds land.” Really? I wanted to also tell him to find the word ‘gullible’ that was painted on the bottom of the pool.
Now, let’s look at a few of the perks:
- Girls in bathing suits. (Remember, we were a group of college 18-to-21-year-old guys.)
- We got to ride the slides every day (seriously, we had to safety check the equipment).
- We were really tan, which usually helped win the affection of those girls in bathing suits.
- We were paid very well for having a lot of fun.
- We got to be superheroes.
There were definitely times that we had to jump in the water to rescue a near-drowning victim. In fact, over the years I had 55 rescues, most of which were people in real danger. Real danger? Yes, real danger. My first rescue happened on my first day of work. An adult woman and her husband flipped over in their tube going down a slide. She dislocated her shoulder and had a nasty gash above her left eye. Blood + water = holycrapthatlookslikealotofblood! During another rescue, I went in after one 10-year-old girl and came back with four. In the few seconds it took me to swim over, the young girl grabbed her friend in panic…who grabbed her friend…who grabbed her friend. I think I actually got applause when that was over.
We were highly trained and very efficient lifeguards. We scanned the water around us every 15-18 seconds by using a constant head rotation. We looked at the corners, used a downward head sweep to look at the area near our feet and then scanned out in a semi-circle in front of us. We sat at alert in our chairs. Our rescue tubes were in our lap with the strap around our bodies and the slack in our hand so it didn’t get hung up on the chair in case we had to jump in. Our feet were flat, instead of crossed so we could stand up quickly and not trip. Our whistles were in our mouth and ready to sound in a split second. No one was going down in our water.
If you had to go in after someone, you stood up, let out a long and loud whistle blast while pointing at the victim. Meanwhile, you looked for a place to jump and land. Before you left your chair, you slapped a safety button. The button sent off an electronic alert over the supervisor’s walkie-talkies, letting them know a guard is in the water. Once in front of the victim, depending on their position, we had a variety of strategies for getting them on our rescue tubes and back into safety. It was all choreographed perfectly.
We. Were. Rock stars.
Here’s me being particularly rock star-ish. This was from 2001 and it was the 2001st rescue in the park’s history. For some reason, management wanted to document this event and had been waiting for it to happen for weeks. You can see how excited the victim was to document that he couldn’t swim very well.
We had an important job. We had all the tools in order to do the job. We had hats and umbrellas to keep the sun off our faces and necks. Glasses to protect our eyes. Whistles to get attention. Rescue tubes to aid victims and make it easier for us to transport them to safety. Sunscreen to protect our skin.
Ephesians 6:10-20 describes the metaphorical ‘armor of God’ that we should put on each day. We are to ‘put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.’ We are to ‘stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your wait, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Additionally, “take up the shield of faith…take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.”
We were perfectly prepared to save someone’s physical life. God is calling us to defend His name, bring glory to His kingdom and be prepared to save someone’s eternity.
1 Peter 3:15 says that we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” As a lifeguard, we would get so immersed in our jobs that we would be restless all night because of dreams of scanning our water. We needed to be prepared for someone to go underwater or have an accident at any time. Likewise, as followers of Christ, we need to constantly be on guard and ready to share the hope we possess.
Many of the victims we would have to go pluck out of the water would just run off because they were embarrassed and get back in the pool. But, several knew the implications of us not responding to their need and situation. They knew what we just did for them. I saw the look on their faces. They looked at lifeguards differently after being rescued.
I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes after they make a decision to be saved and to give their life to Christ. The looks are very similar. You know what else is similar? Both the near-drowning victim and the new Christ-follower both want to get right back in the water.