It has been downright cold this past weekend. I mean dangerous, hurt my face, why do I live here, cold. On days like these I like to remind myself, like Olaf in the movie Frozen, that summer is coming. That this place also gets hot; I mean dangerous, hurt my face, why do I live here, hot. So on this cold day, my mind wanders back in time to one of those hot summer days on the farm where I grew up.
My father was a dairy farmer who also grew corn and soybeans on his many acres. We, as his children, had the grueling task of walking those fields to either pull the weeds or pick up the rocks. These tasks, thankfully, were offset by the delight of jumping into our above ground, four feet deep, refreshing, swimming pool. I learned to love to swim in that small pool, but it first almost took my life.
Before I could swim and because I wasn’t tall enough to touch the bottom, my mom would put me in one of those small inner tubes to keep me safe. As long as I hung on I could kick my way around the water and attempt to be included in the fun. It felt restrictive but at least I was with the family. On one occasion, I remember having a deep longing to be freed from the limits of that tube. I just wanted to be all in.
Without fully understanding the reality of the decision, I lifted my arms up and let go. For a brief moment it felt exhilarating, then I started to sink.
This memory is a full color, could have happened yesterday, one. I remember the fear in that moment of being pulled under, unable to breathe, unable to get back to where I had been. I also remember that I simply looked up. For there, up through the water on the ladder was my tall, oldest brother. As quickly as he noticed my plight he was diving into the pool to rescue me. I am sure he knew the warnings about diving in such shallow water, but he still chose, in an act of bravery, to get me to a place where I could breathe again. It was one of those refining moments in my life; I survived with a new motivation to learn to swim freely for the many summers to come.
As I recalled this terrifying yet sweet memory, my thoughts turned to my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. God’s love and grace is like, not just a small pool, but an ocean; full of the refreshment needed from the toil and heat of this world. As a Christian I am continually learning to navigate those waters. I have been swimming with the family of God for over 42 years but I still find myself restricted, clinging to an inner tube of self-effort and comfort instead of knowing how to swim freely. I have a renewed longing for more. I am tired of the restrictions and want more freedom in my relationship with Him.
There was one specific morning last year when I went before the Father, God and wept with this desire. I had been wearing myself out trusting in my own strength to keep me afloat. I had that deep desire for more. Like the lyrics of my favorite song.* I wanted His Spirit to “lead me where my trust is without borders” and be taken “deeper than my feet could ever wander” I wanted to be all in.
So, without fully understanding the reality of that decision, I lifted my hands in surrender and let go.
For a brief moment it felt exhilarating; of course, since I had not yet learned to live this way before, it didn’t take long for me to start sinking. Life began to pull me under. I now believe that God, in answer to my cry, allowed the strength and health that I so depended on in my self-effort to continue to fade and some of the comforts of life to go away. Because when I found myself feeling unable to breathe, unable to get back to where I was I was reminded to simply do what I had done in that pool as a child, look up.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? Psalm 121:1
In looking up, I saw the One from where my help comes. He dives in and rescues me every time.
For He is the same One that Peter looked up and saw after getting out of his safe boat and found the waves more than he could handle.
“…and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him” Matthew 14:30-31
The same One Stephan, from the book of Acts, had seen while he was being stoned to death because he too had chosen to be all in.
“And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”Acts 7:56
He is my “Friend who is closer than a brother”(Proverb 8:24), standing on that ladder of Heaven, who chose, in an act of bravery, to dive in by dying on a cross and rising again to provide for me a place where I can breathe again. Not only that, but every day, as I look to Him, He is renewing my strength and teaching me how to swim freely in that ocean of love and grace.
So again today I let go.
I am all in. Even when life is hard. I mean dangerous, hurt my face, why do I live here, hard. I will look up to Him and He will show me how to swim freely for the years to come.
Yes, I am all in. Are you?
*Oceans by Hillsong United