Confession: I never learned how to swim.
The irony of my secret confession is I love the calm and serenity of the ocean. Water is life, it is healing, for me it is where I feel closer to God. But the summer of my 12th year my mother, determined not to pass on the irrational fear of water she had to her children, forced unwelcomed swimming lessons upon us. Against my will and my preteen rationale, we were summoned at ungodly hours for lessons at the local community pool.
I hated it.
I hated being awake before the sun during summer vacation. I hated squeezing my sleepy flesh into an awkward one piece bathing suit. I hated the cold shower in the girls lockeroom. I hated the frigid pool water. I hated the eyes on my body as I came into the shared area. I hated the water in my eyes. I hated how the chlorine stung in my nostrils. But what I hated the most, were the lifeguards. A bunch of high school pranksters working summer jobs, whose idea of funny involved shoving terrified amateurs into the water. Then watch them panic as their bodies struggled against a force much more powerful and dominant. Sometimes holding a head just below the surface of the water to ensure us mere mortals understood who was in charge. It was cruel. And for weeks, tense and terrified, one of my first morning thoughts were Is today the day I finally go under? I tried to relax a little more when my instructor informed the class one morning girls were exempt from getting pranked by the lifeguards. The rumor was only boys got teased and roughed up, the lifeguards wouldn’t even think of hurting any of the girls. That announcement did nothing for my 12 year old nerves, I constantly peeked around corners or looked behind myself every so often. I was not going to be caught off guard and get tossed into the deep end of the pool. The day came when I was coaxed, along with my brother, into the deeper end of the pool with my instructor. My brother, a natural, excelled each day we went over into the deep end. Me? I sank faster than a rock each time. But my instructor was patient and encouraging. His voice was soothing, his instructions clear but each time my feet could not touch the bottom of the pool, I panicked. I was a lost cause but he didn’t give up, he was set on making a swimmer out of me, whether I believed I could or not. His daily instructions to me were “listen for my voice and follow it” and “my hand is right here.”
One morning, this memory invaded my thoughts as waited for my alarm to signal the start of the day. It felt exactly like the artic pool water but I pressed beyond the anxiety bubbling up and allowed honesty to invade my thoughts. I began a silent conversation with God.
Me: I feel like I’m 12 again and I’m unsure, I’m panicking, I’m alone and I don’t know how to swim. I’m drowning and it feels like You’re watching me struggle!
Me: You’ve abandoned me, in the middle of the ocean. And You expect me to swim to shore and You know I can’t swim. I can’t! Yet You are watching me drown! And I’m failing! Miserably!
God: you are learning how to swim but what you haven’t grasped yet is…you are NOT alone. I AM THE OCEAN.
This is what the healing journey has been for me. Sometimes I see God as my swimming instructor. Patient. Encouraging. Lovingly guiding me even when I cannot open my eyes to see what is ahead of me. Other times, He’s more like the prankster lifeguards, catching me off guard, tossing me into the deeper end of the pool or holding my head just below the surface of the water. And even in the midst of my panic and my fear of going under and never coming back up, I remember HE IS the water. I’m not going to drown, I’m not going to die. I’m learning to swim in HIM. I’m learning who HE created me to be and what HIS purpose is for my life.
Did I ever get tossed into the deeper end of the pool? Sure did. And I’m still here.