We're having a bit of heat wave here (well, hot for Salinas), so the girls have been swimming a lot (even at 9pm last night!).
So, I was reminded of this story from when Bethany was younger (told from Bryan's point of view):
Small arms squeezed my neck so hard I thought I would choke. A small body shivered and shook against me. Her grip grew tighter.
I sighed and waded into shallower water. Waves lapped the sides of pool as other kids swam and leapt and turned somersaults in the water. Shouts of laughter rippled over the pool’s surface. I pulled gently at my daughter’s arm. “Loosen up, sweetheart. I won’t let go of you.”
“Nooooo.” Bethany’s whimper grew louder as she dug her fingers deeper into my skin.
“Swimming is fun. But you’ve got to let go of Daddy.”
“I’m s-s-scared.” Her teeth chattered even though the water was a balmy eighty degrees.
I swallowed and attempted to loosen her grip enough for me to breathe. But Bethany only grabbed harder, not because she loved me or wanted to be close to me, but only because she was afraid. This was our third swimming lesson and she still wasn’t brave enough to let go. I reached for her goggles and put them on her, adjusting them so they fit just right. “Okay, are you ready to try?”
“I d-d-don’t know.”
I looked into her goggle-clad eyes. “You have to trust me. I’m right here. Trust me.”
She took a deep breath.
“Trust me,” I repeated again.
This time, Bethany nodded. “Okay, Daddy.” Her grip loosened a little bit. Then a little bit more. And a little more.
I sidled toward the edge of the pool, then took her hands and placed them on the edge. Next, I stepped back until I stood three feet away. “Push off and swim to me. You can do it.”
Bethany studied the distance.
I reached out with both hands.
With a push and a splash, she was in the water on her own, then in my arms again.
I laughed. “You did it!”
She laughed back. “That was fun!”
“You want to go under the water?”
Her brows bunched in a frown.
I smiled. “Trust me.”
Bethany straightened her shoulders. “I’m ready.”
And down we went. Once. Twice. Three times. By the end of the lesson, Bethany had discovered a whole new world of fun and adventure. She could go underwater and look around. She could “sit” on the bottom of the pool for a whole three seconds. And she could kick her way from the edge all the way to me without being afraid. Swimming had ceased to be scary and instead was a joy. For an hour we swam and played and enjoyed every minute. Finally, it was time to leave.
“That was great, Daddy,” Bethany exclaimed as she clamored out of the pool. “Can we come back tomorrow? And the day after that? And the day after that?”
I chuckled. “We’ll come back soon. I promise.”
I grinned as I watched her scamper into the locker room. What a difference between the shivering, shaking girl who had climbed into the pool and the happy, exuberant girl who had climbed out. And it was all because she had decided put aside fear and instead trust her Daddy.
In some ways, my life with God is not much different from Bethany’s swim lessons. Romans 8:15 (NIV) says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” When God calls me to try new things, to stretch past my comfort zone, to step out into the unknown, it’s easy for me, too, to cling to Him out of fear. But God doesn’t want me to grab onto Him because I’m afraid. Rather, He wants me to trust Him enough to let go of fear and embrace all the adventures He has for me. He wants me to learn to live in joy and freedom, to learn how to swim with Him.
And just like Bethany, I need to loosen my grip and trust God to be there if the waters get too deep.