The other day I held Hayleigh’s hand, counted to three (although she wanted to count to thirty-one) and we jumped together into my parent’s pool. It was her first time being brave enough to jump into the deep end. It was my first time being brave enough this season since the heater broke and the water was a “refreshing” (aka bone-chilling) temperature. I am a super spoiled swimmer. As a pre-teen I wouldn’t even go in the water until it was almost 80 degrees. When I came up trying to find my breath, and sunglasses, I looked over at her bobbing there in her swim vest, hair stuck to her face. I expected to see her smiling and cheering. But instead she was gasping, blinded by water and her untrimmed bangs. I tried to convince her to paddle on over to me, but she bobbed there, frozen in place, gasping and squinting. She was terrified and overwhelmed by the vastness of the water. She later told me even when her head was above the water it looked like the water was all around her in big walls by her shoulders, blocking her so she couldn’t see. Even though I was calling to her, from just a few feet away, she couldn’t see me. She was paralyzed to even follow the sound of my voice. Instead she bobbed there in fear and discomfort, certain she was helpless.
I looked at my sweet, terrified, water-logged daughter and I saw myself-as I so often do when I look at Hayleigh. How often in my life I am barely able to keep my head above water. I am bogged down by the things of life, my the stress, by the business, by anxiety, by Depression, by the suffering, by expectations, by my own sin. I try to paste a smile on my face. I can barely make out the shadows of people around me-the blinders keep me only looking in one cloudy direction. I wonder if anyone can tell. How many times I have just sat there bobbing, in water up to my chin, trying desperately to come up with an escape plan, but at the same time powerless to move. I could relate to her position, but now I could see it from the other perspective:the person trying to help.
I reached out to her. It all seemed so easy. “Just open your eyes. All you have to do if just kick over to me. I’m right here. Take my hand.”
It made me think that so many times in my life when I have felt like it was all closing in, that I was alone and being swallowed up by life, that I really wasn’t as alone as I had felt. Maybe if I had just opened my eyes a little, reached out my hand in the direction of the voice, mustered a few weak kicks. I have felt like God was no where to be found. Or why didn’t He just jump in a save me, bring me sputtering and gasping over the the side and give me CPR? I have blamed Him for my drowning, blamed others for not seeing that I was going under. But as treaded water there next to poor Hayleigh, I saw the other perspective. She wasn’t drowning. She didn’t need CPR. I wasn’t far off. I wasn’t on the side of the pool cheering her on and she struggled. I wasn’t dangling a life preserver just out of reach. I had already given her a swim vest. She was fine, if she would just trust in it. And I was right there in the pool, treading water along with her.
I wonder if God has ever looked at me that way. I wonder if He has ever seen me struggling there in what I am convinced is thousand foot water, with my head barely above water, not trusting in my life vest, certain I am all alone and perishing. Maybe he has looked at me with compassion and thought, “I am right here. You are not in any real danger. Use what I have given you. One little stroke at a time.”
So that is what I am trying to do these days-one stroke at a time. One little thing, followed by another little thing. Doing all I can, giving all I can muster. It might seem like the water is in walls around me, but I know a little perspective would change everything. I also know my Father would never let me drown. He has given me the swim vest. I have His Word, prayer, Hope and Truth. I just have to trust in it. So I am. I am making feeble attempts. At times I still feel like there is water filling my lungs and I can only paste a smile to my face and look like a deer in the headlights. There are times when all I feel like all I can do is just take the next breath. All my body can focus on is staying alive. It is those moments where I reach for my life-preserver. I breathe in grace. I breathe in truth. I breathe out praise. And I make a feeble stroke in the right direction. It might not feel like I am getting anywhere, but I am doing all I can. I am inching my way closer to my Father. I am giving what I have. Instead of hoarding and conserving my energy, just to stay in the same place, I am using what I have inside me, emptying myself out in order to move. And with each bit I use I feel Him filling me with new strength. The more that goes out, the more I have.
I might never be a confident swimmer. I will certainly never been the Olympic medalist of life. I am no Michael Phelps. I am okay with that. But I don’t want to be someone who is barely surviving. I am sick of exhausting myself to go nowhere. So, even if I can only see an inch in front of me, I will go forward. I will move towards the sound of the Voice. I know there is a hand reaching out for me. I trust the swim vest I have been given. Swimming can be hard, but that’s what the vest was designed for. It will hold me up, but it isn’t a motor boat. It isn’t self-propelled. Swimming can be exhausting. Life can be exhausting at times, but this is what I was made for. I trust the One who made me, who is calling me to step out in faith. He is closer than I have realized.