Underwater Angels

In this excerpt from Best Angel Stories 2014, Mary C. Neal describes a miraculous rescue that reassured her of God's presence.

By Mary C. Neal, MD, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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I completed my first scuba course and became passionate about the sport. I gave up my paychecks and began working in exchange for equipment. When the shop sponsored a trip to the Florida Springs, I couldn’t wait to go. The drive from Lexington to Florida was long and our group arrived after dark, but the water was beautiful, calm, and inviting that evening.

We novices were so eager to make our first open-water dive that we compelled our instructors to break the first rule of night diving: Never dive at night where you haven’t yet dived during the daytime. We impatiently donned our equipment and enthusiastically jumped into the water.

Once under the surface, I stuck to my instructor like glue. We cruised along the bottom and I was thrilled with the splendor of the fish and the variety of the colors and shapes of the coral. My first open-water dive was living up to all of my expectations and, too soon for me, the air in our tanks neared empty and it was time to surface.

When we inflated our vests and kicked toward the surface, we did not pop through the water’s surface as expected, but we solidly struck rock. We swam in another direction and again struck rock. We had inadvertently entered a cave to which the exit was not obvious.

My instructor and I searched for the opening, but the visibility had been diminished when, in my inexperience, I kicked the bottom of the lake with my fins and raised a cloud of silt. We were running out of air and the tank alarms were echoing.

That’s when I remembered to pray. I called out to God and I was immediately filled with the feeling of God’s presence and the knowledge that He would show us the way out. He would see me through.

The silt began to clear and we saw several fish darting back and forth before lining up together, swimming in the current. They seemed to beckon us to follow, which we did. We made one last dive down to the bottom of the water in the direction of the fish, then swam upward and broke through the surface of the lake just as my instructor’s air tank emptied completely.

My instructor and I discussed our shared experience at length. He was entirely focused on himself, and was distraught at having lost control of the situation. He felt responsible for the mistakes that were made and what he thought was his poor judgment. He believed that we had survived because of pure luck. He judged himself a failure and proceeded to drink himself into a state of oblivion.

For my part, I had a profoundly different response to our survival. I did not believe that luck was involved. I had experienced a profound sense of calm and a knowledge that God was with us in the cave. I believed we had survived because God intervened, even though we had been such knuckleheads and He essentially had to push us out of the cave.