It began when I was a Guppy.
Growing up, summertime in Minnesota involved Vacation Bible School and trips to the lake to cool off. So it was only normal that my mom would enroll all four of us children in a summer swimming program, not only for our safety when we were at the lake, but probably more so for her sanity during those long summer months. At just five years old, I was scared to take swimming lessons, basically because I had no idea what to expect or what would be expected of me.
I guess the fear of the unknown was just as terrifying to me as the fear of the known to others. But my swimming instructor, Mrs. Lithgow, knew that in order for me to get past the fears I was facing, she would have to earn my trust. So little by little and exercise after exercise, she coaxed me from sitting on the outside ledge of the pool to sitting in the pool holding onto the ledge. She calmed my nerves when I was terrified to put my full face in the water and she cheered me on when I held my breath under the water for a full sixty seconds. She held her hand under my back and braced me as I learned to float in the shallow end and she dog-paddled effortlessly in the deep end while she urged me to jump in to where she was with her arms open wide, telling me: “Let’s go for a swim.”
Mrs. Lithgow earned my trust and she never ever failed me.
As life went on, I realized that not everyone was as kind as Mrs. Lithgow. Not everyone was worthy of trust and not everyone was good. After decades of what seemed to be relentless wandering in the wilderness of my life, years of being hurt by people who vowed to love me, years of building walls around my heart to protect it from more hurt and decades of wounds and resentments from my past, I heard a still small voice calling out to me in the depths of what was my hardest time yet.
His words were odd, but I knew what he meant: “Let’s go for a swim!”
I’ve heard that still small voice many times. It was under the bed with me when I hid from my abuser. It was in the room where my youngest son took his last breath; it was in the courtroom of my divorce. And I remember hearing it clearly at the altar where I gave away my life to the only one who could ever save someone as messed up as me.
He knew I’d been hiding for years from re-engaging in life and that I’d been hurt too many times to want to risk anything again. For me, it was safer to sit on the edge of the pool and watch life go by than to get back in there.
“Let’s go for a swim!” he said again, urging me to jump back into the pool of life.
I saw images of what might happen if I really did jump in and they terrified me.
“God, I can’t, I’ll drown,” I said, holding my breath.
“Trust me,” he replied.
Then I saw him. He was there, in the deep end–holding out his arms just like Mrs. Lithgow used to do.
“Let’s go for a swim,” he said again. “Trust me, I’ll catch you.”
And he did. He most certainly did. Life changes when you put your trust in him and not in the world around you.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5