It’s summer time in Texas and my toddlers are learning to swim. Simon is 2, a year and a half younger than big sister Miriam, but he is mountains braver when it comes to jumping in the pool. As some of you would agree, you don’t actually want your kids to be that brave around something as dangerous as water.
It’s completely exhausting to keep him alive when he doesn’t wear his floaties, but it’s something my husband (and my son) love to do. Daddy will throw Simon in the deep end and then swoop in to lift him up after giving him a chance to swim on his own. As Daddy pulls him up, the smile on my son’s face is incredible—he is clearly having the time of his life!
But for me and my watching mother-in-law, we hold our breath, ready to jump in with our clothes on if for some reason he isn’t able to pull Simon up out of the water. And you know? We’ve never actually had to do that. As my husband constantly reassures us, he’s their Daddy, he’s never going to let them drown! Yet, we continue to brace ourselves, certain that the worst is going to happen and maybe, if we’re prepared, we can prevent it.
When God Threw ME in the Deep End
This whole thing reminds me of the time God threw me in the deep end, when my husband came home from work and informed me he was going to become a personal trainer.
To illuminate the trauma of this moment, I have to fill you in on some background information.
Confession: I have struggled with a negative body image since I was in grade school. With two athletic brothers, I paled by comparison when it came to physical skill. Pride kept me from trying things I didn’t think I’d succeed at, so I never had a healthy opinion of exercise or physical activity. I avoided it at all cost because it made me feel uncomfortable and often people would make hurtful comments about how uncoordinated I was or how red my face would get as my heart rate accelerated.
I also grew up watching my mom struggle with her weight, not wearing a swim suit, jumping on fad diets, etc. . . and then the worst punch in the gut happened when I was 20. She finally told me about my dad’s many secret affairs that ultimately led to their divorce a few years earlier.
My impressionable and immature mind concretely decided in that moment that a husband will not be faithful if a woman doesn’t maintain a cultural standard of beauty. Because I idolatrously thought marriage would be my saving grace, the lie took deep roots in my heart.
When I first met my husband, he was at a Bible college with dreams of becoming a youth minister. So, the fact that he loved sports and weight-lifting didn’t strike me as an obstacle to our happy future together. He would go to the gym and I would read books and we would live happily ever after.
Maybe now you can imagine how terrifying it was for me to think my husband would be a personal trainer—working with men and women, analyzing everyone’s bodies and at last recognizing what a uncoordinated, fat slob his wife was. I just knew he’d leave me for sure.
Holding On for Dear Life (to the WRONG Person!)
So I did what any irrationally frantic wife would, I held on for dear life. But instead of holding onto God, I held onto my husband. This, my friends, is a HUGE mistake and it almost cost me my marriage. I experienced anxiety and paranoia and a bipolar mix of “I-can-prevent-the-worst-if-I-just-try-harder,” and “He’s-going-to-leave-me-no-matter-what-I-do,” attitudes that left me more emotionally fragile than I’d ever felt before. I was sinking fast and I felt terrified.
Nothing I said or did changed that fact that my husband was going to get certified as a personal trainer. These circumstances forced me to face my fears. And, I believe God allowed it all to happen for his good purposes. My fearful heart was exposed and I could ignore it no longer. I emotionally wrestled with God for nearly six months and finally breakthrough happened. (It’s what he does.)
He lets us struggle under the surface of the water which strengthens us, and when he’s ready to empower us to swim upwards, we might burst from the struggle sputtering and coughing, but when we reach land, we have a newfound confidence in who we are and who’s we are. He gave me a new name and I chose to walk in that new way of life, refusing to place my trust in my abilities to hold my marriage together or my husband’s ability to stay faithful to our marriage covenant.
I even refused to place my identity in my body image. And I walked like that, with my head held high, for about two solid weeks. And then something (it could have been anything) triggered my fear and I sunk under the water again. I went back to the old way of flailing and fretting and fixing until the Lord graciously reminded me that he already made me strong enough to fight this battle with him.
And that’s how it’s been for almost a year now. Walking bravely in freedom and then falling down, crawling back into my prison cell and then remembering that I’ve already been set free. So I stand up again and walk out in freedom once more. I have a feeling that’s how it will be until the good Lord brings me home.
My son Simon must have this figured out already: In this life we’re all swimming and sometimes the waters get over our heads, but we can keep peace and even experience joy, if we trust that he’s our Daddy and he’s never going to let us drown.
(Need help with your body image? Check this book out!)
Allyss Flores enjoys woodworking and the outdoors with her husband and two small kids. She has always loved to read but has recently found a love for writing that would have been nice to have in college! An introvert and encourager by nature, she feels most alive during deep conversations over great or not-so-great coffee. She is very grateful for the opportunity to share her experience with God’s grace, as it has had a profound effect on her own life. Read Allyss’ other posts here.