The Courage to Drown


Drowning is terrifying.

We live on the surface, floating on a vast ocean. We are desperate to stay afloat. We flail our limbs wildly in an attempt to keep our heads above water. We grasp at every piece of driftwood or debris that comes our way, promising to help us in our desperate fight to stay on the surface.

We have been told that happiness is here on the surface, that the ocean, whose waves slowly beckon and try to drag us under, is our enemy. The ocean is persistent and continues to call, asking us to launch out into the deep—duc in altum—promising that true happiness can only be found in its depths. Yet we continue to struggle. Perhaps we find our way onto a raft or a boat and we convince ourselves that this is true happiness as we cruise along the top of the waves. But the ocean is always there, its calm waves daring us to take the plunge.

I went to a boarding school where we were not allowed to use phones, computers or even access the internet without permission. Whenever I tell this to one of my peers, their reaction is always the same: “That’s awful.” It’s almost as if they think it is impossible to lead a happy life without these things and when I remark that I actually enjoyed my high school experience and would do it again, they look at me baffled or highly skeptical as if I couldn’t possibly be telling the truth.

The thing is, we all desperately want to be happy and we are constantly searching and placing our hope in something that satisfy that ache. We have convinced ourselves that certain things will make us happy so we ignore God’s call and launch into the deep after the next shiny thing floating on the surface. While binge-watching the next season of Stranger Things might make us happy for eight hours, what next? You can only watch Violet Evergarden so many times.

So we continue our search, moving from show to song to car to computer. Sometimes a good job or a good partner satisfies us and it feels like we are cruising the seas. Deep down we know that the things that we hope in are transitory and can never give us the happiness we are looking for, the happiness which only something eternal can give.

Most Catholics can rattle off the answer that true happiness can only be found in God and I think deep down, we believe it too. Yet it is hard to act like we believe it. That would mean we would have to drown in God and drowning terrifies us. To answer the call would mean leaving the surface where we are comfortable. It would mean giving up the chance to be a part of that world.

We lack the courage to make the plunge. We lack the courage to give up the fight and surrender ourselves completely to God. To let Him pull us into His depths. Maybe one day we will have the courage to let go of our pieces of driftwood, let our limbs go still and allow ourselves to be dragged into the ocean. Maybe then, in the freedom and happiness that the vast ocean provides, we can look back to our limited existence on the surface and thank God for giving us the courage to drown.

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