I was standing at the edge of the diving board looking down. Five feet to hit the water and another 11.5 feet of water. My heart was beating fast. My family was lined up sitting on the wall watching with anticipation. “Oh gosh, I hate diving boards!” I exclaimed.
My 6-year-old and 4-year-old had just finished their 5 ceremonial end-of-the-pool-time jumps and begged for one extra. Here I was seriously about to back up and get off the diving board, and my girls could not get enough. I had a moment of asking myself what was wrong with me? I jump off the dock at Lake Tahoe every year, and it’s cold and much higher than our neighborhood pool’s diving board. But I was really hating every minute of being on that diving board. “Go, Mommy!!!” was echoing in my ears. I had to jump. OH MY GOSH…Fine.
I jump and get water up my nose and in my ears and ugh. I climb out, and we round-up the troops. “Why didn’t you want to jump, babe?” my husband asks (who had just finished flipping and diving himself and been the leader of the peer pressure). “I just don’t always love that deep water…I’ve had some bad water experiences. That’s why I want the girls to feel totally comfortable in all water, but I want them to be safe. I want them to swim well.” We pack up, take a picture and head out. Once we’re out to the van I ask him, “You don’t ever get nervous at the end of a diving board right before you jump?” “No, why would I get nervous? I can swim…”
“I can swim, too,” I thought. So what was wrong with me?
Sometimes this walk with Jesus can feel a little like swimming in the HUGE neighborhood pool.
The beauty of the shallow water is that our feet can touch the bottom. We can move around freely, but it’s safe. We choose what participation level we prefer. We can keep our heads out of the water lest we mess up our mommy top-knot. We also have more control in the shallow end. This looks like control over the littles that are just learning the deeper waters. I don’t totally trust them, and I’m a bit of a helicopter mom. I control best in the shallow waters where I can also keep my footing. I know how to swim, but these little people need me to hang back with them while they discover their freedom.
My oldest has the water skills to survive given trouble, but I am often worried about her endurance. If she keeps doggy-paddling in deeper water, she will eventually run out of steam. I find myself often yelling, “SWIM! Put your head in the water and swim!” My middle has NO fear or respect for the deeper water. She just knows she loves it, but she truly a maniac in the water…yet she has far better form than her sister. When she actually swims, it is beautiful. Then there’s the littlest. She has just met the requirements to graduate out of a seat floaty into puddle jumpers. She was crawling out of her seat floaty, ready for more freedom; but for several days, the puddle jumpers provided a bit too much freedom for her little body and heart to handle. It took her time to adjust to the deeper water even with her safety floats secured. Yet now she is convinced she could do ANYTHING with those puddle jumpers on.
Swimming has felt like knowing Jesus lately. When we really know how to swim, freedom is tangible. There are some disciplines that are important to swimming. We must put our heads under the water at some point and learn how to come up to get a breath. Kicking is ESSENTIAL to moving through the water. Like my husband taught just this week, we should blow out when we hit the water. Yet, when we are not practicing these disciplines, we develop bad habits and form. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, confession, solitude, worship, etc, are essential to walking with Jesus. Without practicing these disciplines, we can completely miss Jesus. They are how we discover Him and enter into relationship with Him.
Much like my oldest, some of us know how to swim, but somewhere along the way we learned some unhealthy practices. Depending on where and what our background is, these certain additions to the Gospel can seem helpful, but often end up being the very practices that burn us out of ministry and make us want to run from faith all together. These practices are often known as religion. Doggy-paddling, while still keeping you alive in the water, will be the very thing that wears us out to the point of no return. If you do these practices too long, they become second nature. You begin to feel like you can’t “swim” without doing these things when in reality they have become your crutch, and you have completely forgotten how to swim. The Gospel is no longer primary. Your bad habits are taking over in the water leaving you utterly exhausted.
Similar to my middle love, there are those with a lack of respect for what is required in deeper water. These people just jump in to this Christian life with glitter eyes believing that all will be better in Jesus. They flee their secular life and jump in with a faith that is very attractive and beautiful…yet very, very scary. They heard the Gospel, they accepted the Gospel and that is all they really needed. They tend to think discipline will seriously hold them back from following God whole-heartedly. And these people often ignore the discipline so much that, even though they know how to swim (and honestly they know how to swim beautifully), they miss Jesus because they are so distracted by their freedom.
Then there are those who are like my littlest that believe, within the safety of some truth, they really can explore all the deep waters. These people sadly have never experienced the Gospel at all. They don’t know how to swim, but their flotation device of morals and good deeds is keeping them afloat. They have no real freedom. Some can explore more depth, but often (like most neighborhood pools), you can’t jump off the diving board into the deepest waters with a flotation device on. It’s pertinent that you know how to swim. The floatation device provides a false sense of security. When jumping into deeper waters, it could truly fail you. Morals and good deeds will eventually run out or you will mess up, but with Jesus, there is a steady Source that will never leave you.
As I stood there on the edge of the diving board, the deep waters just seemed like too much. But like my husband had reminded me, I know how to swim. I do know how to swim, but over the years I’ve developed bad habits, had bad experiences, and forgotten that I actually know how to swim. I know Jesus. I know His Truths, and I have relationship with Him. As I exercise the spiritual disciplines, I can trust in my freedom that Jesus is WITH me.