Thursday, July 7, 2016

I learned to swim at my hometown YMCA pool.  I don't have many detailed memories of those lessons, but I can still imagine the big room and pool, I can still hear the echoing sounds of the water and voices, I can still remember the smell of chlorine, I can still feel the sensation of water on my body and it running off my face as I would surface.
I advanced quickly through the various stages of swim classes, reaching the last level a couple of years before most my age.  Consequently, I was a small guy compared to my peers in the class. I think the level was called The Sharks, but I may be wrong.  I remember one of the requirements in the last level was to swim as far as I could underwater, holding my breath.  One pool length was expected, but if you could do more, then it was encouraged.  I recall the anxious anticipation of diving in, thrusting my body as far forward as possible while making myself as hydrodynamic as I could in order to increase the distance of my initial jump.  And then as I felt myself slow to a point I intuitively knew I could swim faster than, I began swimming.  Remarkably I came to the end quicker than I expected, so I turned and pushed against the pool wall with all the strength my legs could muster, then began swimming back to the deep end.  Again, remarkably, I made it to the end where I had started.  Now I was beginning to feel my lungs demanding a new breath of fresh air, but I turned around and pushed against the wall again and began swimming toward the shallow end.  As I swam this length I began releasing the spent breath I'd been holding.  I made it about two thirds of the way before rising to the surface and gasping for air.
I didn't expect to go nearly as far as I did and I was excited for my accomplishment.
My experience in learning to swim has opened me to many discoveries about the world, about challenges, about overcoming obstacles and fears, but mostly discoveries about myself.  I've learned that it's easiest to stay in the shallow waters where it's safe and familiar and non-threatening.  I've also learned that the best lessons and most fulfilling experiences are in the deeper waters.
It is in the deep waters I have been filled with awe by the glory of creation, the wonders of the cosmos, the simplicity and complexity of life, the love and joy of The Creator, and the spectacular symphony of nature.  It is also in the deep waters that I have been tested and I've found my own boundaries--some of which I have, by necessity, enlarged; others I have had to humbly accept.  The deep waters present us with more gifts than we will ever be able to unwrap. It is in the deep waters that we are most at risk, but it is also there that we are baptized.
I've learned that there's always a new depth.  Whenever I become familiar and comfortable with a particular depth, it's then that I begin to be drawn to something even deeper, more mysterious and more of a blessing--despite what I may be put through to reach it.
I have discovered that my faith opens me to the presence of God in these depths.  Rather than forbidding me from the deep waters, God has knit into my heart an adventure, one for which God is the treasure I find in the depths.
Just like all the early swim classes, The Minnows, The Guppies, The Pollywogs, or whatever, all the experiences I've had through life have been necessary in preparing me for the deeper waters.  Consequently, I have patience for those not yet swimming in the depths.  I am not better than they.  Each stage of life is necessary.  The only misfortune is when someone reaches a certain point and prefers treading water to swimming further out and diving further down. Sadder still are those who deem the ones swimming further out and diving deeper as wrong in doing so--perhaps they're trying to justify their own fear of the deeper waters by stigmatizing those who swim further than they.
I have come far enough to know that I have not yet come far enough, to know that there is more yet to discover, more yet to explore, more yet to be tested and strengthened by, more of God's deep love in which to swim.  And the remarkable thing is that as I am able to look back to shallower waters and remember how spectacular it was to swim there at the time, yet now it looks so small and confining, I know that I will yet look upon where I am today with the same notion from deeper waters still.

© 2016 Stephen Carl

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