When I was a kid, my parents and I went to this place called Word of Life up in New York. They had a day camp for the littles and I loved it! I met another little girl there named June. For some reason, I was absolutely fascinated that her name was the same as the very month we were at camp. I couldn't get over the wonder of that coincidence.
One day, we went to the beach. The memory isn't very clear anymore, and I'm sure the folks watching us were being careful, but as I waded out in the shallows, I slipped. For some reason, I just couldn't seem to get my feet underneath me to stand up. We were in a lake, so maybe the rocks covering the bottom were slippery. Or maybe the current was strong. Or, most likely, I was just klutzy and uncoordinated. Whatever the reason, I just couldn't stand up and in my little five year old mind, it seemed like I was going to drown. For some reason, as I struggled in the murky water, the picture of Jonah flashed into my head. I wondered fleetingly if God would send a whale to swallow me.
Before I could decide if this would be cool or horrible, June reached down her pudgy hand and yanked me to my feet. I coughed and gasped. I think I probably cried a little bit. When my mom came to get me, I ran to her and told her I almost drowned.
The workers pooh-poohed this idea. "Hehe, doesn't little Rosanne have an active imagination? No, of course, your little darling didn't almost drown," they assured my somewhat alarmed mother as they patted me on the head. Very enthusiastically.
They were probably telling the truth - in their eyes at least. It was shallow water. I was probably under a total of 10 seconds (but it seemed like 10 minutes). It probably was one of those things that scared me in much greater proportion to the actual danger I was in.
But it was enough to instill in me a great fear.
My mom, who also is not all that fond of the water, really tried. She took me to swim lessons. It didn't help that I had ear problems and had to wear this really dorky swimming cap. Hey, if you can't swim, at least you can look cute, right?
If you remember my post from a few weeks ago, these lessons were not a huge success. The only thing I succeeded in doing was making the swim instructor not very happy with me when I shoved her in the deep end from the diving board. It wasn't an act of defiance - it was an act of preservation.
Over the years, I would go to the pool or the beach or parties, and watch in envy as other kids seemed to have a blast. They would hurl themselves from diving boards, shrieking with delight. They'd zip through the water, playing Marco Polo or tag.
All the while, I would cling to the side of the pool, paddling my feet, pretending I was swimming.
But I wasn't. I would never really swim, never experience the unique freedom of being in the water until I let go of the side of the pool.
But I was afraid - a fear that went bone deep to a kind of terror. The water in the deep end glistened in the sun, but it didn't seem inviting. It seemed malevolent. One wrong move and I'd be back underwater, fighting to surface, fighting to breathe.
In case you are wondering, I can swim now. I'm not a strong swimmer, but I do a mean doggy paddle. How did I get over this fear and finally let go of the side of the pool, you might ask?
The answer was my dad. My dad was an awesome swimmer. He could walk across the bottom of the pool on his hands which I thought was the coolest thing in the world - and it definitely gave me street cred with my little friends, too.After all, none of THEIR dads could do that.
Instead of making me climb up on a diving board and jump into the deep end, my dad spent many hours with me in the shallow end of the pool. At first, he would keep his arms underneath me as I kicked away. With him holding onto me, the water held no fear for me.
Then he used one arm. Then he used one hand. Then, I was swimming across the shallow end and he only had one finger under my chin. When he finally took that one finger away, I panicked. I started thrashing around. Immediately, his hands reached out to hold me and my panic went away.
We went back to one finger under the chin for a few minutes until he told me he was going to take his finger off. I protested, but he told me to just watch him. He assured me he was right there and he could reach out to me at any moment. He would not let me sink, much less drowned.
So, keeping my eyes trained on my dad's eyes, I swam the length of the shallow end. You would have thought I had just won an Olympic gold in freestyle when I finally reached the other side - all by myself.
Suddenly, the pool didn't seem so scary because I could swim. Pool parties became fun because I could join in instead of clinging to the side of the pool. All because I kept my eyes trained on my dad.
If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know that one thing I struggle with is fear and worry. Many times I've clung to those fears, enviously watching as others glide seemingly effortlessly toward their goals or fling themselves into the unknown without a backward glance. I would wonder why I don't have that joy, that courage.
I've learned over the years that my fears - whether they are real or imagined - don't have power over me when I keep my eyes firmly fixed on my heavenly Father, though. Just like my dad, my heavenly Father will not let me sink. He won't let me drown. His loving arms are there to rescue me at any time.
Sometimes, it's hard though, to follow and obey. It feels a lot like letting go of the side of the pool and kicking out to that scary place - the no man's land of the middle of the pool where there are no sides to cling to - but I will never know the freedom that obedience brings without doing that. Without letting go, you can't glide through the water, you can't experience the wonder of flying through the air to land with a splash and then shoot back to the surface. You miss the joy an exhilaration that comes from just letting go.
These days, my fears go along the lines of "Who will want to read what you write? What if you are actually not all that good? What if you are good, but nobody wants to publish you? What if I do it all wrong or pick the wrong area to write in?" (I told you I was somewhat neurotic!)
But I have a choice to make - I can continue to cling to those fears or I can fix my eyes on my Father's face, let go and finally, swim. I'm choosing to swim. How about you?
~ Blessings, Bronte