The week was stifling hot, and the girls had been begging for days to go. The big, red, twisty slide that ended with a splash into the pool beckoned them every time we drove by. I was reluctant because I never liked pools or open bodies of water or even bathtubs filled too high. But just because I was afraid didn’t mean that I wanted my children to be fearful of swimming. My husband assured me that “everything will be fine.” So we went.
At my insistence, we arrived just as the pool opened (my attempt to take control and make things as safe as possible). My husband took the girls on “whale rides” on his back one at a time. Because our son was only a year old, I refused to let him take him to the deep end, so I kept our latest addition with me in the shallow end. Other families joyfully unloaded, and more and more children hopped in and out of the pool. My husband, sensing my fearful agitation, suggested that I move out a little farther. While I wasn’t exactly comfortable with that, I rationalized that it was safer than some errant arm or leg blindsiding me or my precious little son.
With the water now up to my shoulders, I held my son even tighter in my arms. He was a smiling ball of cuteness, and I began to relax, but only a little. I glanced around to make sure that my daughter who wasn’t the current whale rider was safe. I checked for my husband and other daughter, and they were fine, too. Then I turned back to my son. His big brown eyes with those long lashes were looking at me with all the love and happiness little boys give their mamas. Suddenly, a wave came crashing into me from a rush of children jumping simultaneously into the pool. I no longer felt the hard surface under my feet, and my head was bobbing uncontrollably in and out of the water.
Two thoughts raced through my mind: 1) If I could just push my son to the surface, my husband or the lifeguard would see him and save him, and 2) I’m going to die at the 111th Street pool. As I took in more and more water, never letting go of my son, I kept trying to push his body up, but I just couldn’t seem to get him above the surface. I was determined, but my body could not do what my mind needed it to do. I began to sink. I couldn’t scream or swim. I wanted so badly for somebody, anybody to see his chubby arms and legs and come to his rescue. The blue-green color all around me was all I could see before I found myself quite unexpectedly standing up once again.
My son’s hair looked glued to his face and head, but he was calm, never showing any sign of what we had just gone through. An eeriness swept over me as I saw kids laughing and playing, my husband circling the pool with a daughter in tow, and the lifeguard staring in my direction behind sunglassed eyes. There was no sign at all that anyone was aware of the danger we were in. I walked slowly, as surefooted as I could, to the edge. With my chest heavy with chlorinated water, I climbed up the steps with my son.
Friend, are you drowning in some area of your life? Have you found yourself no longer able to stay afloat? Have you lost touch of what you were once standing on? As scary as this season may be, I assure you that God still reigns. The threat, danger, and loss may be real, but so is our God. Friend, let me be clear: I was drowning in that pool. I was petrified and panicked. This was no active imagination at work. But like many of us, in the moment of trial, I forgot to stand on what I knew for sure. In quite the literal sense, I forgot that I was in less than five feet of water. I needed to relax enough to stretch out my legs and put my feet down. I could stand up because what was underneath me had not moved. Only I had. What are you forgetting?
Sometimes we are going to be called to go out into deeper waters. Sometimes we will find ourselves feeling more and more comfortable in that new water, but inevitably, powerful waves will come to sweep us off our feet. Does that mean that we should have never ventured out? Does that mean that we are out of alignment with God’s will? Certainly not! God cannot develop us if he cannot challenge us. He cannot strengthen our faith if we never have occasion to be faithful. And He certainly cannot move us into our destiny if we are playing life too safely, hugging the shallow edges of life, instead of journeying out when He tells us to do so.
There is a going through that is required of all Christians, Friend! If we never feel out of our depths, can we really say that we are faithful? Are we really doing what God has called us to do? Yes, we have to avoid recklessness and impulsiveness. That’s wisdom. But there is a kingdom-building assignment that God has for each of us. That assignment will most assuredly come in ways we never dreamed of, and we will be uncomfortable for parts of the journey. But there is also a destiny and a joy to take possession of on the other side of faithful obedience.
I used to relive the fear I felt every time I thought about that day at the pool, but the more I grow in my Christian walk, the more I realize what God was trying to teach me. I desire the faith in God that my one-year-old son had in me all those years ago! Wrapped in my arms, he never shifted or squealed. His arms and legs never flailed about in fear. His heart never raced. He went through the same thing I did, but he knew who held him. Do you know the One who holds you?
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…” (Isaiah 43: 2a, NKJV)