Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Life Jackets

"The life jacket won't make you swim," I tried to explain. "You'll still need to do the work; it just keeps you from sinking."

She wanted to swim so badly. She felt it was time to move from the shallow kiddie pool over to the big kid pool. But she was afraid because she didn't know how to swim.

We borrowed a life jacket and strapped her in. The second the belt snapped in place she squealed, "now I can swim!"

Oh, buddy, I thought. If only it were that easy.

Avery and her life jacket

Maybe life is like swimming and faith is like the life jacket. 

Let's say you've got to swim across this huge span of water. You can't even see the other side and, while the waters appear calm and quite pleasant right now, you've heard stories of dark and stormy seas. Of waves that swell so big they threaten to swallow you whole. Of the torment the waters put on a body, making every muscle ache and lungs plead leaving you crying and completely broken, begging to just give up and give in to what attacks you.

But you've also heard stories of the gentleness and softness of the water. Like silk gently trailing across the flesh and the sun warms your face and the birds above you sing and you can lay your head back and soak in the goodness, smiling as it feeds your soul, overflowing with a love that you can't even put into words.

And you can't even see the other shore. So you know that when it is good you'll want it to last forever; but when your body is failing you'll want some relief.

And that's where the life jacket comes in. 

God's love wrapped tight around you, secured with his goodness and mercy and grace. His promises keeping you afloat. He provides the eternal life jacket for your soul. 

But you still have to do the work.

Because you can't just enter the waters wearing His life jacket and expect to suddenly get to the other side. 

You have to move your muscles. One arm, then the other. Kicking your legs, propelling you forward. Yes, you have the assurance of your life jacket - but that life jacket can't do the hard work for you.  

As we travel through the earth-waters of our life, knowing God's arms are wrapped tightly around us, God is telling us to kick! Move your arms!  He is the swim coach of our lives and the buoyancy that allows our head to keep popping up for air, allowing us to breathe in His greatness at that exact moment we felt we would fail.

And just as you must keep swimming through the torrential rains and work extra hard to swim through the waves that swell taller than we ever imagined, so God reminds us that when our earth-waters threaten to pull us down, suck us in, finish us off - it is then that we must try harder, faster, stronger! 

Because God is many things. He is love and light and goodness and compassion. He forgives and redeems and blesses and showers us with grace. But He won't do the work for us. He wants to see us do for ourselves. We need to do it for ourselves. 

A little bigger and a bit more confidence.

I watched as my daughter struggled. I watched as she became discouraged because she couldn't figure out how to move herself forward. I watched as her eyes narrowed in frustration as other kids swam quickly past her. I watched as she cried and complained when another jumped in next to her, causing a wave to splash into her face. I watched as she gagged and spit out water from her mouth.

Several times she looked at me, calling out for help. And I would answer, "You can do it, buddy. I know you can. I'm right here."

And, you know what? She did do it. 
She blew it out of the park.

Avery on the South Central Swim Team