Aqua Blue Promises

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

*Note: This is actually an article I wrote years ago for a you'll see, Caleb was only about 4. But I thought of it the other day when I was having coffee with my Salsa sistas. When I re-read it, I got all emotional again, remembering my little guy's tears and thinking about the Aqua Blue promises too many of us forsake. Don't forsake your dream because you're afraid, friend. It's too pretty. Learn to float! I’ve been thinking lately about fear. I know, nice way to start an article. It was prompted by my taking Caleb to swim lessons. Where we live there is a canal that runs right in front of our house, a pond in the back yard, and no fence to speak of, so my boys are not exactly free to roam their property as little boys should be…at least not until they learn to swim. So this year I decided to sign Caleb up for lessons. He breezed through and passed the first class without ever batting an eye. The other moms kept asking me, “Why is he so motivated?” All I could tell them is, “it must be the big pool.” Every day he would ask me, “Mom, I get to go in the big pool next time?” And every day I would tell him, “not yet, but if you keep working hard and listen to your teacher you’ll get to really soon.” On the last day of class they pull out this little red slide and all the kids get to climb up and slide down into the “Big Pool” and the waiting arms of their instructor. Caleb was in his glory that day. And he was fearless. I promptly signed him up for the next class with promises of a special treat at the end once he had learned to float. Floating is a good skill, I think.
All was progressing fairly well, but I started to notice that Caleb wasn’t asking so much about the Big Pool anymore. I would see him look over his shoulder with something akin to longing on his face as we would leave, but he stopped asking about it. I started watching him closely in the water. That’s when I began to see the fear. I don’t know from whence it came, but suddenly there it was. His teacher would ask him to stretch his body out and kick as he was pulled through the water. Instead, Caleb would sort of ball up, muscles tense, and grab white knuckled for any part of the teacher’s body that was within reach. Caleb’s technique, far from being graceful or beautiful in the water, was ineffective, at best. We tried with all the words and coercion we could think of to convince him that his teacher would keep him safe, his teacher wouldn’t let him go, his teacher only wanted to prepare him for the Big Pool. “Trust your teacher and do what he says” I kept telling him, but to no avail.

On the last day, we arrived a few minutes late and Caleb’s class was already sitting on the edge of the Big Pool sporting the cutest little life jackets. Oh! I thought I wouldn’t be able to contain his excitement, but Caleb sort of drug his feet over to the spot and sat down. We helped him into the life jacket and he slid timidly into the pool with his teacher who promptly flipped him onto his back like a turtle in his shell. That’s when the tears came. Once safely on the pool’s edge, life jacket removed, I got down next to him and asked what was wrong. “I’m just a little scared, Mom.” A little later they got that wondrous red slide out and all the kids clamored to get in line. Caleb walked quietly over to the water’s edge and sat down to watch. My mommy heart wanted to flop down right there on the wet cement and cry. Cry for all the hopes and expectations, all the excitement and wonder of the Big Pool that had just melted away into sinking, immobilizing fears.

That’s why I’ve been thinking lately about fear. What I realized is that the driving motivator behind fear is a lack of trust. Caleb’s teacher stood right over him, coaxing, encouraging again and again, “I’ll be right here, I won’t let go of you.” But Caleb couldn’t seem to believe him, he couldn’t bring himself to trust. I remember telling one of the moms next to me, “I want him to learn to trust his teacher because I want him to learn that he can trust God. Isn’t it exactly what we do with God? All of the promises that he wrote down for us, “I will never leave you…”, “Delight yourself in the Lord…”and we can’t seem to bring ourselves to believe them enough to learn to float.

What is your fear? What holds you back from doing what God is asking of you today? It could be something very small. Maybe you don’t like to pray in groups or lift your hands in worship. Are you afraid that God won’t meet you in that place and you’ll be left looking stupid? Perhaps it’s something big, like your life. Maybe you’re afraid to let go of the plans and dreams for yourself that you have carried since your youth because, “what if God doesn’t have anything better and I’m left with nothing?” All the while He’s standing over you saying, “He who loses his life for me will surely find it”… “If you seek me you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Oh if only I could have convinced Caleb to do his teacher’s bidding and do it with ALL his heart. He’d be floating…no he’d be in the big pool by now.

Caleb’s little swimming fears look silly to a swimmer. A swimmer knows you have only to stretch out your legs and push your hands forward and the whole pool belongs to you. But they are real to him. There are unknowns for him. There are unknowns to you and I. But our instructor is a swimmer. He knows what we don’t, and if we will just take him at his word then we’ll be swimmers too. That’s what obedience is. It’s “You said it, I don’t get it, but I’m gonna do it anyway because I’ve seen you swim.” That’s what trust is.

Let me tell you something about the Big Pool. The Big Pool has two diving boards, one short and one reeaaaallly tall one. It has a rope swing and lots of kids with floaty toys and balls. It has lots of laughter in it. But there’s more. Just beyond the Big pool is a door that’s always open. If you step out that door you burst into glorious daylight. Sunlight scatters off the aqua blue water like a million tiny lightning bolts, and you have to squint your eyes to look directly at it. There’s another slide out there, a big one, more diving boards, more laughter, and the warmth of the sun on your dripping, golden skin. There are two really tall chairs where the guys with dark skin and red shorts sit holding their whistles. They're there just in case you forget that you know how to float. If the worst happens and your fears come true, they climb down and pull you out of the water. Ahhhh, now those old swimming fears do look silly, don't they?

Caleb is mesmerized by the sparkling Aqua Blue with the slide…as am I. It represents for me all the reasons to learn to float today, all the reasons to obey the instructor today. And so I encourage you. Take a good hard look at the thing you fear. Take a look at it and then fling it all out on Christ. Paul’s words have taken on a new meaning for me, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Paul knew the enchanting promise of the Aqua Blue. As will you and I, and my sweet Caleb…someday.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” Phil 3:12-14 (emphasis mine).