When I was a child, my uncle had an in-ground swimming pool. At the time, this was somewhat of a novelty. I had taken swimming lessons and was confident swimming in the shallow end of the pool, but was afraid to venture beyond the line that separated shallow and deep water. I watched my cousins jump or dive into the deep end and wanted to do the same, but fear anchored me in toe-touching water.
Finally, one day I plucked up my courage, and without thinking too much about where I was headed, I swam past the point where I always stopped. Several strokes into the deep end, a wave of fear washed over me and I began to sink. Suddenly, I felt buoyed from beneath and heard my dad’s voice in my ear, “Keep going. I’ve got you.” I made it all the way to the end of the pool, through deep water, with the support and encouragement of my father. I heard his voice, trusted him, and kept going.
My childhood swimming experience often repeats as an adult in different scenarios. Some challenging situation lies ahead. I see others who have successfully navigated what is yet uncharted water for me. I want to dive into the experience, but fear and uncertainty anchor me in toe-touching familiarity. Do I have what it takes to move forward? Am I about to attempt something far beyond my capabilities? Will I fail?
An element of fear is inherent in moving beyond what is comfortable and familiar. For some reason, we usually postulate all the negatives before considering the positives. And we usually forget about our resources.
If you are thinking of plunging into deeper water, consider the following:
Remove the “im” from possible – If you’re viewing deep water through the eyes of your own abilities, you’re likely to stay in the shallows, glued to the edge of the challenge. What seems impossible usually is, if you depend on yourself. Often we make the mistake of trying something in our own strength first, get discouraged, and then give up before reaching the other side. Instead, ask for God’s help before you take the first stroke. He is ready, available, and able. All you have to do is ask. But make sure your motives are pure and be willing to shift to a backstroke if He says no or changes the timing of your endeavor.
The cumulative effect of determination – If you’ve ever watched a child learn to dive, you know it takes the ability to remember multiple instructions, put them together simultaneously, and then the determination to repeat the process over and over until perfected. Often, the child is exhausted, but continues to swim to the ladder, climb onto the side of the pool, and begin the whole process over again. Sometimes sheer determination is what keeps us afloat in deep water.
Timing is everything – Competitive swimmers know the importance of timing, not only in synchronizing their strokes, but also pouring on speed when needed. Often we miss opportunities because we procrastinate, over-thinking the what-ifs and enumerating the difficulties.
The buoyancy of faith – Just like my father’s voice in my ear as I swam into deep water, so God guides and encourages. But often our ears are tuned to a different frequency and we miss God’s direction. Faith requires not only trust, but perception. By fine-tuning your ears to God’s voice, you remain afloat when swift currents threaten to pull you under. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)
Several years after I swam into the deep end of my uncle’s pool, my father had a pool built in our backyard. Next week, the cover comes off that pool and the 50th swimming season begins. Even today, there is something a little scary about the deep end, but I am confident forward motion into deeper water, greater challenge, is worth the risk.