A few months ago, my daughter came to me with her heart set on something. This sweet child, the most outrageously generous of anyone I know, and who asks for very little, wanted to request a gift that only I could provide. A friend had invited my Natalee to join her at a Christian camp this summer. She wanted to go so badly. To be honest, I was pretty bewildered. Natalee is my little buddy and never far from my side. Since the day we brought her home, it’s been the two of us. She’s never slept over at a friend’s home or doesn’t usually opt to be away from us. I’m okay with this. I love having my girls close to home and I dread the thought of them leaving the proverbial nest. So the thought of Natalee being gone for several days was a shock to my system. And she was advocating for it, even more surprising.
But I couldn’t deny the excitement that lit her deep brown eyes up like twinkling Christmas lights, or her wide grin. This girl wanted to spread her wings, pack her bag and get out of Dodge. After all those years glued to my hip, my daughter wanted to taste a little independence and freedom. Who was I to tell her no? Plenty of kids went off to camps in the summer. And LOVED them. Surely she’d have a great time. Friends would be there, she would experience new things and meet new people, and hopefully get a deeper revelation of God during her time away. Plus, we’d get one on one time with Olivia. That’s a win-win for everyone. So I signed her up.
Almost as soon as I did, I had a sinking feeling. Camp usually involves lakes and pools and lazy rivers. Natalee was not a strong swimmer, not really a swimmer at all. How could I send my little girl off to a camp with the risk that she could be harmed in the water? But she wanted to go so badly, there was only one thing we could do. Swim classes.
A few weeks later, I found myself sitting on the floor by a large fan at the local YMCA. The humidity was stifling because of the pool and for some odd reason, they never have enough benches for all the parents. But at least the fan provided momentary sweet relief for the sweat gathering along my hair line. Natalee tentatively found her way to the edge of the pool and to her instructor, who was already in the water. She dangled her feet while waiting for the other students. Five other little ones showed up and they got to work. For forty minutes, the kids learned about bobbing, floating and popular swim strokes with creative names meant to delight children. We went back each Saturday and she improved. By the third lesson, I felt confident enough in her basic skills that she could be sent to camp without me standing over her the whole time or sitting out the swimming parts.
On the fifth lesson, I watched as she dunked her head beneath the surface, held her breath for several beats and then popped up again, breaking through the water to create a small splash. She smiled, pleased with herself and her newfound ability to acclimate. Over and over again. It made me think of those pictures you see of babies in water. Their natural reflexes cause their arms and legs to move, making it seem as though they can swim. They seem to love it, this time spent in the water. At some point, the reflexes wane and we have to relearn the movements to keep us afloat again. And this relearning is important. The Word calls us to have dominion over the Earth and everything in it, including the animals, land and sea. But water can be dangerous. It can easily consume us and take over. Learning to swim and being comfortable in water helps us survive. Getting our sea legs, or in this case, our ‘swim legs’, ensures that we won’t be overtaken.
Trusting in God is very similar. It can take a while to learn the skill of trusting in someone else, rather than yourself. When trials arrive on the scene, it comes naturally to many of us to clench tightly, especially if we don’t have any practice in relinquishing our challenges. But the more you practice, the more second nature it feels to hand it over. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life gasping for breath, trying to get to the surface. I know how vulnerable it feels to experience things far beyond your control. But I’ve learned to give my God space to move, to teach, to fix, to throw me a lifeline. To experience the water over your head and all around you, and still know that you’re Creator is preparing to breathe new life into you is a powerful and beautiful thing.
Isaiah 43:2 says ‘When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.’ The waters will rise, that’s a certainty, according to God’s Word. The waters and rivers and fires will happen because of the brokenness we live in. But we are not meant to be overtaken. We can trust in the Creator of the land and sea, the moon and the stars, the rain and the sunshine. The God who invites the waters to cover over the land He created, and walks on them, will never let you drown. Like my sweet Natalee learning from instructors how to be empowered in the water, Father promises to teach us the necessary skill to float along the waves, by trusting in Him.
Getting my swim legs,