What the 9 Year Old at the Pool Taught me back in 2007

Have you ever pulled a journal out of the archives, needing to be reminded of an experience you had? Did you ever need your own words from the past to offer you perspective in the present?  Well, this happened to me today. And these words are from all the way back in 2007 y’all. 

Girl-at-PoolI’m at the pool after church and this is what I’m learning. I believe every moment is an opportunity to see God–to think and meditate on my walk with Him. I see 2 girls, about 8 or 9, playing. They jump in and make splashes. One fair skinned and the other dark-natured with caramel colored skin. The dark-haired girl hoists herself out of the deep end and then stands on her feet at the edge for one more jump. Except she’s turned away from the pool, not toward it. She then screams and jumps backwards into the water. The sound she made would make one think she was shocked, surprised, unexpecting to fall in. But she gave her act away--she held her nose and closed her eyes.

As she jumped backward, it reminded me that we all have the nature of adventure in us. We all want a dare, something unexpected to occur, and we want to conquer it. But by holding her nose and closing her eyes, this girl also reminded me of the double-sided nature we all have. We want to play it safe. We want a dare as long as we can control the outcome, you know, come out looking good and breathing well. We would never jump backward into unknown waters without providing our own protection, heaven forbid, without holding our noses. We want to look like we are adventurous enough, as Christians even obedient enough, to “jump in” for God with no reserve. But we always want an out, a way of escape, a way to make things pretty once we surface. We create our own safety nets.

What that really means is we don’t trust. We want all the glory of a daring life, but not the risk. We want to look like we take bold risks, but we always have a backup plan. Why do we do this?

I asked my heart this question: Why does the idea of letting go of my nose and opening my eyes scare me so much? I come up with an answer. I’m scared of what will happen once I emerge from the jump. I’m scared of what I’ll look like on the other side. 

1. I might get water up my nose = I’m scared of being uncomfortable.
2. I might have to cough = I’m scared that all the messiness that makes up who I am may come out in a violent, exposing way.
3. My eyes might get red and start stinging = I’m scared of pain and losing the ability to see.
4. I might swallow water = I’m scared of having something foreign in me, especially when I’m not in control of its effects.
5. God forbid, I might come up out of breath, covered in snot = I’m scared to look incapable, messy, or ugly.

Then I think further–why do I care if I’m messy? Out of breath? Incapable? Or any of those things for that matter? What if I was alone in the pool? I’d probably wipe my face and keep swimming. Ah…then it comes to me. Approval. I don’t want to be all of those things when someone’s watching me. I want their approval. More so, I want to be able to control their approval, and I can do so by simply holding my nose, closing my eyes, and trusting myself.

Pool-3Now obviously it’s wise to prepare yourself if you know you’re going to be literally underwater. But sometimes, metaphorically in life, I need someone to come creep behind me and push me in when I’m not looking. Do you know what I mean? I mean a full-force, no time for nose-holding, good old-fashioned push in the pool. Where my scream is real, not cute. Where my feet do not decidedly jump, but fall. Where my heart literally falls into the bottom of the water, and my face has an inevitably unattractive look on it. Sometimes I need that.

I think God allows these pushes in the pool to catch us off-guard and show us that when we come up to the surface, we’re messy at our core, tainted, snotty, failing the standard of perfection. He wants to show us that while we are valuable to him, we aren’t as invincible or polished or in-control as we think we are. He wants to remind us that at some point, under some amount of pressure, we will lose our ability to keep it together. He wants to show us that there’s only one person in human history that dealt with dark, deep, painful waters perfectly, responding with no sin, no malicious thought, and no retaliation. And that person isn’t you. And it definitely isn’t me. But, listen, He also wants to show us that with Him, we’ll make it. We’re still breathing. We didn’t die. We can still see, though it takes some time to focus. And although we have a gallon of an unfamiliar substance in us, we’re still living, snot covered and all.

These kinds of experiences teach me that I am not the one who keeps me sustained. Only the Lord. (Psalm 55:22) I didn’t hold my nose, yet I am okay. Being unaware and caught off-guard, truly falling into the unknown, backwards, now thats a real adventure. Pretending to do all those things are cheap thrills, and they leave you feeling like you missed out…on a rush, a dare.

It makes me want to end up snotty. Seeing our messiness, our sin, is simply what happens when we let go of our nose and open our eyes–when we let go of our own control, our our backup plan and surrender to God’s plan. When we trust that HE will keep us breathing, it exposes our snot. And then a wonderful thing happens over time of falling into pools; the approval of others starts to not matter. This is because we are living for the unpredictable thrill of falling into what we cannot control, instead of looking neat. And the best part is, we can’t manipulate when we get pushed. It’s all up to God. If you know a push is coming, there’s no trust or adventure in that. You can prepare yourself. The best pushes come when you least expect it…when God throws you a curveball…and that is a glorious feeling, when you’re trusting Him. Pushes and curveballs don’t seem glorious when we’re counting on ourselves for the end to be pretty. They don’t feel like an adventure with a really good ending; they feel like an interruption of our plan, a disturbance, or even rudeness from God. But when we already know we’re taken care of in the end, when we know he’s with us and he experienced just as many curveballs as we have, we can’t wait to feel the emptiness of the air beneath our feet.

Because when we fall, he’s not safely planted on the land laughing at us or screaming from some sideline. He’s in the water, too. He’s in on the dare. He’s on the field. He doesn’t demand you enter into something that he’s not willing to face, too. If he pushes us into an adventure, he sure as heck isn’t letting us have all the fun without him. He’s doing it with us. Listen, he doesn’t push you into deep waters without wading through them first. He goes before you and then he beckons you to join him. That’s one of his major distinctions when you stack him next to the gods of religious history. He’s not an unapproachable god that barks out orders and asks you to report back to him. He’s the God that goes with you in the waters.

Now, if a 9 year old has the nature to fake falling into a pool, and is clever enough to make it look graceful as she surfaces, I can’t imagine the manipulation we use to protect ourself in everyday life-oceans. We do the same things she does, just on a larger scale. We think our waters seem much bigger than pools. Holding our noses won’t cut it anymore. We try to create all sorts of things. We try to construct emotional rafts to float over our issues, build dams inside of us to separate us from our messiness, and build bridges to avoid the water completely. I do it all the time. What issues do you avoid Him in? What waters seem to deep to deal with?

Through all of this, I can’t help but wonder…Do we ever truly let our guard down? Allow ourself to fall with no self-made safety net? Feel the thrill of the water and know we’ll be okay? Do we really believe that although our God isn’t always safe, He’s always good when He calls us to something?

107_509684615994_1406_nEven if it means learning how messy, cloudy-eyed, and snot-covered I am without Him, I know I want that kind of relationship with Jesus, with my God. I want to look at myself in the mirror after an adventure with Him and be okay with how human I am, and feel to the core how divine His power is that sustains me. Do you?

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When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
(Isaiah 43:2)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10)

Cast your burdens on the Lord,
and he will sustain you.
(Psalm 55:10)

 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 
(Matthew 14:27-33)

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