During the past month, I did a lot of sitting in a plastic chair watching my kids take swimming lessons. My daughter loves being in the water. Even if she manages to inhale a bit while she’s under, she comes up sputtering and then goes right back down again. Meanwhile, my son clings to the side of the pool like he’s hanging by his fingertips to the side of a cliff.
It’s been a bit perplexing watching him during the course of the lessons. It took a bit of convincing to get him to go under water in the first place, but over time he seemed to go under less, not more. By the time the lessons were over, he was barely sticking his mouth in the water when the teacher told him to go under. Instead of trying to hold his head beneath the surface, it looked more like he was having a sneezing fit.
He couldn’t convince himself to go all in.
How often do I do the same thing in life? The way forward seems over my head, so I stay in the shallows. If I’m really feeling brave, I do a cannonball into the deep end for a couple seconds and then pat myself on the back for that show of faith as I retreat to the low waters.
It’s hard to unpack and park myself in the deep.
The shallow is comfortable.
It’s also selfish.
The truth is, God and I have been communicating about water for quite a while now. Years, really. For whatever reason, water is the medium that has been used to capture my notice, to spur me into motion, and to convince me that it was time to move on when I got too comfortable. Over time my attention has been grabbed by leaks, downpours, songs about water, and even dreams about lakes and rivers.
This time, it’s my son swimming.
The more I watched him not quite master the techniques, the feeling began growing inside me that I was supposed to be gaining something from his struggle. Something about relinquishing my hold on the shore so I can go a little farther. Something about leaving the safety of the known for the unfamiliar deep. About tossing out the kiddie pool and going all in.
Last week I picked up one of my random devotionals (I have several that I pop into without any rhyme or reason) and opened it to the correct date. “Put everything in your life afloat upon God, going out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and your eyes will be opened. If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor into the great depths of God…” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
After reading it, I said, “Wow, thanks God for that affirmation of everything I’ve been pondering.” Yeah…not really, because I’m a lot more of a muddled mess than that. What I really did was hastily scan the devotions for the days before and after that one, because my mind wanted to explain why the message for that day was about water. It was surely just a series that I stumbled into, with a week’s worth of ocean topics or something. Except it wasn’t. Just that one day in the midst of others not like it, that I happened to pick up while I was thinking about water once again.
So I kept thinking about it, because as much as I’d like to hope I’m smart, things like this take me forever to figure out. While I was still rolling it around my brain, one of the guys at my church posted a blog about his trip to the ocean. (Check out Alan’s blog here.) “…a few do make their way through the distractions and crowds. They feel the draw and want more than just the beach. They want to see more than just sand. Some will never see the beauty of the ocean because they can’t get past the fun they are having at the beach. They will never know the vastness and the absolute peace that the ocean can give them.”
Alan likely knew he was reaffirming what I already read that week. Ahem. Again…pretty sure that’s not the case. More likely, he’s reading this now and saying, “Hey, that’s cool.” High-fiving someone near him like he usually high-fives my kids.
Those same kids came home from camp last weekend, and they both had written in journals while they were gone. In my son’s, when it asked for something he needed to do better, his answer was simple: swimming. A couple weeks ago I would have just nodded and silently agreed, but by this time his answer hit me in the heart. Mostly because it’s something I need to do better, too.
Someday I will be asked if I encountered the depths of this life, and I don’t want to have to look back and say, “Not really, but look at my cool sandcastle.” Because the beach might be fun, but there’s so much more to be discovered below the surface. And there’s purpose that requires me to be all in, over my head, away from the shore.