Of This I Am Certain
June 14th 2016. It was another hot and humid summer day in east Tennessee. I was surrounded by water, as one is when they work at a water park. But as one who works as a ride attendant, the water becomes a commodity you’re not allowed to touch. Before this day, I had never really put much stock in the idea of Satan or how he was supposedly always engaged in spiritual warfare with God in trying to get at my soul and tear down my faith. I didn’t believe in spiritual warfare, until I lived it on this particular summer day.
The attacks started early. I got to work around 9:30am. As I was walking from the employee parking lot, a lifeguard that I had never met before, caught up to me and said, “Today’s going to be a terrible day”. It took me off guard. Not because I have never heard employees complain about working here, I had done my fair share, but because it was so direct and out of the blue. As the lifeguard walked away, I found myself thinking, “No, this is the day that God has made. And every day that He blesses me with is a gift”. You see I had recently been trying to change my perspective about life in order to start to see the world through God’s point of view, instead of going to work everyday with a negative attitude. Especially since I had been having a bit of a rough time at both work and the discipleship program I was a part of for the second summer in a row. The lifeguard’s words felt like a direct attack to the faith I was putting in God to transform my perspective. And I guess I must have pissed Satan off by brushing off what would be the first attack of the day, because he just stepped it up from there.
Early into my rotation, I was at the big red water slide where families and friends alike would race each other down on slightly moldy looking, blue and yellow mats. It was starting out slow this morning and I was settling in for what I thought would be just another 10-hour day of standing and rotating from ride to ride. I remember talking in my head to God just to keep myself centered. Then I recognized a familiar green polo shirt starting to make its trek up the hill to my little isolated slide. One of my bosses, who also happened to be in the same discipleship program that I was a part of during the summer, started walking up to me. I was slightly confused because he usually doesn’t make his rounds this early nor does he always talk to us attendants when we’re out on park, but I figured it was going to be about the closed slides that I had passed on the way to my first spot. As predicted, my boss, Will, asked me if I would like to go home early that day if the other ride wasn’t fixed by the afternoon since I have been struggling lately. I was already tired and was grateful to be asked first, so I of course said yes. But as Will walked away, I started thinking that I didn’t want to get my hopes up just in case the ride was fixed. I remember praying that God’s will would be done and he help me through whatever was to come next. I confidently trusted Him with this day and was not going to let any disappointment take that trust down.
So I went about my day, and it got hotter and stickier. I was drinking as much water as I could but it somehow didn’t seem to be enough. As the morning hours gave way to the afternoon, I was starting to not feel all that well, as it only seemed to get hotter and stickier. All through this, I continued to focus on God and lean into Him with everything I had. Finally, and I had a feeling this would be the outcome, I saw Will come back to me with an apologetic look on his face as he told me that the ride was fixed and being added back to our rotation. I was weary, I wasn’t feeling well and I could feel the disappointment creep up despite me trying to fight back with having faith that God was still with me in this day. The war was building inside me.
A couple more hours go by and I started to feel worse and worse. By the time I was at what we informally called the “toilet bowl” slide; I was definitely not okay and close to begging God for mercy. I could feel the temptation to complain and give up but I resisted and instead just prayed for help. The sun was merciless. The people in line all seemed to be giving me death glares. I’m handing out those big, blue blow up tubes and sending group by group up the last thousand stairs so they can finally experience if their hour of waiting in line was worth it or not. I knew that if I could just get through this, I would be able to go to lunch next and have a break in the AC. But as the minutes ticked by slowly, I started to get desperate. My smile was accompanied with subtle frantic looks around for anyone in a management position. I could feel myself slipping and didn’t know how much longer I could stay on my feet. Tube after tube I handed to slightly annoyed guests. My enthusiastic “Have a nice ride!” was starting to sound more and more fake even to my own ears. Finally, I was telling God, “I can’t do this. I’m going to pass out. I feel sick. Help me, please”. Not one manager, from any department, walked by. I was just about to yell to the lifeguard on duty to my right in desperation when the person rotating behind me finally and suddenly showed up to relieve me. Not sure what else to do, I made my way slowly back to the booth where I was hoping to find any of my three bosses. I found Andy in his green polo looking dazed in the harsh reflection the sun was making on the poorly chosen countertop of the booth. I told him that I was feeling sick; with what I could only imagine a desperate and exhausted look on my sweaty face. Despite that probably being a warning to a larger problem, he simply told me to go drink some more water and sit in the host lounge upstairs to get some AC. But as I slowly made my way upstairs, I found myself entering the waterpark office to find someone higher up on the food chain to help me, but as I ran into the secretary, Christina, and she told me that my top manager wasn’t in the office at the moment, I just lost it.
All at once, I had an emotional breakdown, a panic attack, and was suffering from heat stroke. (which is what I would come to find out later from one of the waterpark medics) As one of the other managers’, Janette, helped Christina to calm me down and get me some water, I couldn’t help but feel lost. I felt like I was being attacked all day and I had finally broken down. Even after I calmed down from my panic attack, drank some water and ate my packed sandwich; I couldn’t help but feel exhausted and sick still. As I lay on the floor of one of the air conditioned offices for what seemed like hours, I couldn’t help the tears rolling down my face even as I texted a friend back home for support. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t getting any better. Christina called one of the leaders at the program to come pick me up since I wasn’t in any position to drive back myself. But even after I was dropped off at my cabin and took a much needed rest, it wasn’t until I woke up, still feeling sick, that I was able to fully process what had happened to me that day.
I woke up from my nap to the sound of rain droplets hitting the metal roof. As the sound got steadily louder, I was able to drag myself out of bed and outside onto the porch. Clouds had replaced the sun, as the rain started to increase in intensity. I sat there on my porch feeling emotionally wrecked, nauseous, and exhausted in all ways possible. But I also felt this unexplainable peace as I watched this thunderstorm develop. The wind started to blow through the trees, the rain started slamming into the ground with amazing speed and rhythm. Loud cracks and booms of thunder followed bright flashes of lightning. But I couldn’t help but feel safe, because throughout that entire day, God was with me, by my side, holding my hand, lifting me up, drying my tears; all the while keeping Satan away from my soul that cried out to the Father for mercy. I had been caught up in spiritual warfare and as He always does; God emerged victorious and banished Satan away. He was never letting me go and even though I would be intensely sick for three days because of this event, eventually experience heat stroke again, and really struggle through the rest of the summer, I never once believed that I was alone. For this I am certain, I am never alone.