I wonder if God wants us all to learn how to swim. Figuratively at least.
Over the course of the last week I’ve watched two of my children take swimming lessons and struggle. My oldest is somewhat determined to learn because he understands that visits to places like water parks are only a part of his future if he gets it down. But, he’s a cautious child and may take after his mother with his instinctual disdain for getting his face and head wet. Similarly, my daughter isn’t convinced she needs the skill and finds the water more fun if she’s holding onto a plastic puppy.
In total, staying on the steps seems like a decent alternative to both of them. If they could choose, it would go something like: Swim lessons? No thanks.
I don’t really blame them. Truth is, I hate swimming. I prefer not to put my head in the water. I’ll never use the words, “Oh, come on, there’s nothing to be scared of.” To me, the water is daunting. It feels dangerous, unsafe, unfamiliar, and this early in the season: cold!
I’m fairly certain that we have one of every life preserver-type floatation device ever made. We have swim suits with floats built in, water wings, inner tubes, life vests, puddle jumpers, kick boards… you name it – it’s probably in our garage somewhere.
So, why would we bother with swimming lessons when we have all these nifty pieces of gear that should keep our kids from drowning? Why not just let them hang on to the edge and stay, mostly, safe?
Why? Because, our children need to know how to swim in order to enjoy and experience the pool. I don’t want them to always be reliant on something that requires inflation. As a good parent, I want them to develop the confidence and skill to navigate the water without these crutches. I want them to to be able to grow up, put away their Spiderman tubes and Hello Kitty arm bands, and SWIM!
I think, as a good father, God wants me to know how to swim too. Maybe not in a pool, per se. But, he wants me to be able to swim through the waters of this life. He wants me to be able to dive in, experience it, enjoy it, and thrive. This is not to say that life will always go “swimmingly,” but rather that I believe God wants us to be able to navigate our lives without floatation devices. He wants us to leave the shallow end and go into the deeper waters of what he has for us.
He wants us to have confidence in Him to be able to leave the steps and just dive in.
Just like my children’s swim instructor is supporting them through their entire lesson, He’s got his hands on us somewhere–even if we can’t see or feel it. He’s there. And, He promised to never let us go.
As my preschoolers learned to float, their teacher’s hand was under their backs or bottoms. When they jumped in for the first time, their teacher was there to catch them. When they first did those kicks and pulls through the water, they didn’t do it alone. The swim teacher had them by the waist, supporting them as they tried to put the moves together to stay afloat.
In the same way: He has us.
Yet, we still struggle. We fail to believe we are safe. We fail to trust. We fail to rest. Our fear keeps us from experiencing the freedom of navigating through the deep knowing God won’t let us drown. Our fear keeps us in the shallow end, hugging the railing and a plastic tube like little children. Our fear keeps us buying more water wings and styrofoam noodles.
I know swimming through life is hard. Life can be a pool of stingingly cold water: one that we can’t bear to immerse our bodies in, yet alone swim through. Life’s experiences can leave a bad taste in our mouth, much like an unfortunate gulp of chlorine.
Or, life can be the opposite of cold. Instead, it’s a pool of not-at-all-refreshing warm water: stagnant, murky, growing gross things, and generally uninviting. Then there are times when life is more akin to an ocean with waves that are tall, even over our heads, or filled with sea creatures ranging from jellyfish that sting to sharks that bite.
Life might be scary. It might be uncomfortable. It might be difficult. But, he won’t let us drown. He won’t throw us into the deep end without some lessons on the shallow side first. Like a good swimming instructor, He may push us (to show us we can handle more than we think we can), but he won’t be cruel. He is always good. He is always faithful to never leave us or forsake us, even when we feel like we are going under.
So, what are you afraid of? What deep waters are you avoiding? Maybe, it’s time to learn to swim!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2 (ESV)