It's a very hot day here, so I was thinking of summer and all the things God teaches me through summer activities. And I thought of this story of swimming, and panic, and thinking you're drowning … and how Bryan taught Joelle how to breathe. So I remembered how to breathe too, when the waters seem to be closing in around me, when I want to panic, when I'm flailing about in life.
Maybe you'll find this story helpful too, and remember how to find your breath, even when you feel like you're drowning:
A FEW INCHES OF WATER
Sometimes parents are right. This was one of those times.
Joelle paddled around the shallow end of the pool with a long, skinny floater tucked under her arms. She made a few circles then headed for the far end of the pool.
I watched her go. Past the ladder, past her sisters, past the light that marked the end of the area where she was allowed to swim. “Don’t go in the deep end!” I called out the warning after her. “Stay where you can touch bottom.”
She didn’t turn.
I started to go after her.
My husband, Bryan, touched my arm. “Give her a minute. She’ll learn.”
Joelle glanced back at me. “I’ll be all right, Mommy. I’ve got my floatie.”
“You could let go of it, and it would float away.”
She turned back around away. “I won’t. I promise.”
“Stay out of the deep end.”
But of course she didn’t. Soon after, the floatie had drifted off and there was Joelle, floundering, gasping, sputtering in the deep end of the pool. Arms flailed, water splashed. And the floatie moved even further from her reach.
Joelle trembled, and wailed, and hung on to her Daddy.
He sighed. “Well, what did Mommy tell you?”
“Waaaaa!” She buried her head deeper in his neck and refused to look.
He loosened her grip from around him and placed a finger under her chin. “You’re all right. Next time listen to Mommy.”
She sniffed and nodded. “I was s-s-s-scared.”
Bryan smiled at her. “I know. Now, let’s practice how to float, in case that ever happens again.”
So they did. They practiced being still, letting her body float at the top of the water, and raising her head above the surface to breathe. No flailing, no panic.
The strange thing is, bodies are buoyant. Yet people still drown with their noses a couple inches from air. Joelle had gasped and thrashed when all she really needed to do was calm down, stop flailing, and raise her face above the level of the water.
She only had to lift her chin and look up.
I wonder if it’s not often like that in life as well. We do something foolish, and we start to drown in our mistakes. But God doesn’t abandon us. He’s given us what we need to float. We just have to listen when he says to "Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV) All we’d really have to do is look up, look to Him, and we’d find our head above water. We’d be okay.
But instead we panic. We flail about in fear and desperation. And all the while God is swimming toward us, calling out to us to just look up.
The Bible says in Psalm 121 (NIV), “I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth… The LORD watches over you … The LORD will keep you from all harm. He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
God is not far. There’s no need to panic. Instead, we just need to be still and look to Him.
So, next time I feel the waters rising, next time I find myself flailing around in fear, I hope to remember the lesson of Joelle’s trip to the deep end. I hope to remember to stop panicking, look up, and breathe in the peace of God. Because my Father in heaven is there with me. He won’t let me drown. He’s given me what I need to stay afloat in all the circumstances of life.