learning to swim

Posted: June 29, 2010 in A Day in the Life, Faith, Family

There is a fear that a child feels when looking at the vast domain of water known as the pool.  Learning to swim.  Really?  Do I have to?  I survey all the sights and sounds of summer; the screams of other kids jumping into water that is a little too cold, the splashing, the laughter, the intermittent call and response of “Marco” and “Polo”.  It all looks like a lot of fun.  Then…then, there’s the water.  The matter of the pool.  Really?  Can’t I just know how to do this?  Why can’t I just be born knowing how to swim?  I hear my dad say those familiar words which, while they’re supposed to bring me comfort, actually intensify my already disproportionate fear.  “I’ve got you.”, he says.  And I know he does.  Sort of.  I mean, I know he means it.  It’s sweet, really.  That’s what dads are supposed to say.  But how can I know, I mean really know?  And so I sit here, feet dangling in the pool, longing to feel its coolness and the delight of summer fun.  And it does look like fun.  Does it ever!  They all look like they’re having so much of what I long for.  Then there’s the jumping in part.  My dad is patient, knowing that I don’t feel ready.  Can you ever be ready, I wonder?  I mean, if nobody is born knowing how to swim, then everybody has to have this jumping in part to really learn.  And they’ve all clearly learned, which means…oh man.  I so don’t want to do this.  But I so want to do this.  What is it about the very act of jumping into water that you know is over your head?  I mean, I want to.  But I don’t want to.  And so, I sit here.  Sidelined by fear.  Paralyzed by fear.  “I’ve got you.”  I know he means it, but how am I gonna know that he really does?  Can I get some sort of written guarantee, dad?  And is that waterproof ink you’re using?

And then I see it.  This 39 year old man looking at this pool through the eyes of a child sees it.  I see it, maybe even for the first time ever.  I’m not really going to know until I jump in.  The words “I’ve got you” don’t exert their power until that moment I jump.  That’s just so…cruel.  And utterly true.  And perfectly how it ought to work.  And I realize that for so long I have trusted in my clumsy, personal fears of jumping into waters where there is no guarantee, no waterproof ink, but only the promise of “I’ve got you”, which until I jump is just a nice theory.  And it’s not just a promise in a vacuum either.  For I have before me the overwhelming evidence of those who have gone before; those who now wade and swim and splash with delight, some still in the arms of their dads, some swimming all on their own, but all of them having so much fun!

So I’m supposed to live without fear, is that it?  No.  I know deep inside that’s not true.  I’m supposed to live in spite of fear, in the presence of it even.  Fear isn’t wrong, it just is.  In fact, I’m convinced that all dads and God love that moment when we feel fear fully and jump in anyway.  And while our screams of mixed fear and delight may sound like so much gibberish, what God really hears is the loud, clear declaration “YOU’VE GOT ME!!”.  So here’s what it comes down to.  I can jump in.  Or I can sit here on the side with my feet in the water.  Wishing.  Longing.  Needing.  Scared.  But either way, He’s got me.  But I’m not really going to know it until the moment my feet leave the earth.  Then, and only then, will I experience the delight of a father who is strong and true and good.  And until then, I am choosing to trade the knowing of that delight for something far less.  He’s got me whether or not I jump.  And I so want to.  Not just to experience the refreshing waters of the pool, but more.  So much more.  To experience the delight of the pool.  The baptism into the community of those who have jumped fearfully before and lived to laugh about it.  The joy of being in a father’s arms who really does have me.  The joy of a simple promise fulfilled.  And even, perhaps especially, that can’t-catch-your-breath moment when your feet have left the ground and you’re soaring through the air, riding on a promise that you’re pretty sure is true; that moment when no amount of unjumping can change your course, when there is no foundation beneath your feet to stand on but the simple promise of a loving father who says “I’ve got you”.  That is the delightful moment that I have missed my entire life.  But no more.

And so I begin to believe this simple promise.  I’ve got you.

And in that moment, this little boy pulls his dangling feet from the water and stands up on his shaking, awkward little legs.  And hearing those familiar words, takes a step back, collects all of his little boy strength, takes the deepest breath he knows how to take, and runs with abandon toward the edge.  And jumps.

  1. DH says:

    This is beautiful and insightful. I love the analogy but most of all love the point that we can actually sit there and not jump and be okay and God still has us. He’d just love for us to trust him enough to experience everything he has for us and not just the dangling feet in the water. So much of these types of analogies are “Bad us for not jumping in and letting fear hinder our opportunities.” Your point is so great because it isn’t “bad us” it is, “there is so much more that God would love to show you if you could take that small but huge leap into the water.” I want you to write my blogs by friend!

    • jpgrow says:

      Man, thanks so much. Your faithfulness to the process is inspiring me to write more and more. If I wrote your blogs, the world would be poorer for it for it needs the insight and wisdom that you bring! Thanks, as always, for being on my side.

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