“That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”
The proprietor of a rental car business in Cozumel, Mexico, was anxious to tell his story. In order to better enjoy all the beautiful beaches had to offer, we had stopped in to get a vehicle for our vacation. There was business to attend to, but the manager had other things on his mind. We began by sharing his woes about the month-long lack of tourists to the island due to the swine flu scare. He explained that because the cruise ships were on “drive-by” and flights from America were scarce, the locals were really hurting for income. The tourist-driven economy was floundering, and families were getting desperate.
As the conversation continued, our new friend, Panda, began to think back to an even worse time in the island’s history. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, decimated the area.
Panda described his terror as he tried to keep his family safe. As the head of a household that included his wife, two young children, and his mother who recently had surgery, he felt the tremendous weight of his responsibility. Wading in waist-deep water inside his home, Panda kept his family members atop tables and other furniture during three long days of torrential rains and Category 5 winds.
With the windows and doors boarded shut, they must have felt like Noah and his family, not knowing or seeing what exactly was happening. He and his wife quietly worried they had only about one day’s worth of drinking water left and very little food.
With tears starting to form in his eyes at the memory, Panda described how fervently he prayed as the winds and rain pounded their house and the water continued to rise. As he went on, he shared how God answered his prayers, and his family emerged from the storm unharmed.
We commented on how resilient the islanders were as they weathered the storms, both physical and economic, but kept right on working hard to make a good life. Having regained his composure, Panda shrugged and said, “That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”
That one short sentence was stamped on my memory as if it were embossed. I considered Panda’s use of the word “paradise.” Surely, if there were a contest for places that meet the criteria of an earthly paradise, Cozumel would be in the running. The sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees make a delightful place to visit. But as our friend had reminded us, those who live there still are subject to the many cares and woes of this world.
We who know Christ will live in heaven for eternity: No more sickness, no more tears, no more money worries, and no more floodwaters threatening to overcome us. Just as Panda protected his family by putting them on a higher place, our Savior has provided a higher plane for us. He paid the ultimate price by giving his life for us, and we can live with him forever.
Now, that’s paradise!
–Lisa Price is minister of music at First Baptist Church in Sweeny.