Racing heart, wide eyes, and hands clinched, I watched him jump. It was the first time he had attempted swimming in the deep water. At a distance, I watched him reluctantly enter the water and swim with all he had. After reminding myself to breathe, my hands began to clap and I couldn’t help but cheer for my littlest child as he swam from one side of the pool to the other.
He finished beautifully, but then the dreaded happened. He climbed out of the pool and sat down, arms crossed, pursed lips and BIG ol’ tears. Measuring possible responses, I calmly walked the length of the pool to “investigate.” Only then did I see the fear that covered him. I approached cautiously, sizing him up with each step, and once within earshot he let me have it. He was not pleased that we (the swim instructor and I) expected him to swim in that deep water. I knew, at that moment, it would take a great deal of convincing before he would ever enter “deep” water again.
What’s funny about the whole thing is that he swam so well across the pool. I mean-this mom saw Olympic swimming! The form was correct, his kicking was strong, and his stamina was perfect. He was able to accomplish such a big task, but one thing hindered him. His unbelief. Although he swam beautifully from one side of the deep end to the other, he didn’t have the ability to see himself swim. What he could see was the depth of the water, and there wasn’t a bone in his body that believed he could-or should-be in that water.
It occurs to me his struggle is not so unfamiliar. Not so much in the act of swimming, but in seeing myself the way God created me. At times, I am so focused on the task at hand that I fail to see the tools/gifts the Lord has given me. I might jump into a project, kick as hard as I can to get it done, and then sit on the side and sulk because I don’t see the benefit of the sacrifice. I am the gal that shouts, “I can’t do this anymore” (with that whiney voice) when it comes to normal duties of parenting, or relationship nurturing. Unbelief hinders me. Unbelief lies to me. Unbelief ushers me into disobedience when I choose not to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It chaperones me into the depth of doubt and the world of “if only.”
I’ve been studying Gideon this summer. It’s an epic story of fear, God’s calling and equipping, and the tendency of man to fall back on his own strength-losing sight of the original call/motivation. In Judges 6, Gideon’s story and response reveals an eerie resemblance to me. The angel of the Lord approaches Gideon, who is hiding in a winepress (cave) while threshing wheat, and speaks with Gideon.
“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us…But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
“The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
I have responded like Gideon when presented with unanticipated “opportunities.” Even if not audibly, internally I think, “pardon me…you can’t possibly be asking me to ________. You know I don’t have enough ________.” That’s unbelief speaking. Focusing on what I lack, keeps me from stepping out in courage/faith. It’s similar to swimming through the deep end, but not seeing the accomplishment for fear of the deep water.
The dialogue in Judges 6 is similar to conversations I’ve had with my children. When speaking encouragement into their lives based on their God-given gifts and talents, they sometimes respond in doubt or disbelief. At times, they are so focused on what they are “not”, that they miss all that they “are.” That’s uncomfortably reflective of me, too.
You know the old saying, “thoughts become beliefs-beliefs become actions?” I watched this manifest when my littlest jumped into the pool. He jumped in thinking the water was too deep and the length of the swim was too far. As if with every kick, that thought solidifying into a belief…and what resulted was a young swimmer that wouldn’t get back into the deep end to save his life.
I don’t want to be the child sitting on the side of the pool, arms crossed; responding to the Lord with “pardon me…” Instead of retreating in unbelief or fear, I want to step out in faith, plunge into the deep waters of God’s grace, believe that He can do what He says He can do, and walk accordingly. No more questioning His call, or shoving giftedness aside because I can’t see myself the way God does.
The LORD called Gideon a “mighty warrior.” He had never, to this point, been a warrior. He was doing an ordinary task, threshing wheat, in an unusual fashion, in a winepress, out of fear! But God saw what Gideon would become-what He was preparing him for. My prayer is that you and I would trust God’s leadership, believing that though the water is deep, He will provide the strength necessary to get to the other side.
“I will strengthen you; surely I will help you.” Isaiah 41:10