If you’ve ever been to a child’s swimming lesson, you’ll be familiar with the atmosphere. The humidity of the air, the smell of chlorine, the loud shrieks and shouts and splashes of happy children, the calls and songs of the instructors — all swirling together in a cacophonic maelstrom of chaos and joy. Parents look on with pride and are sometimes distracted by the ever-present smart devices.
Taking my daughter to swimming lessons has been a highlight for me, a special time we can spend together. Although we had a significant disruption this year due to the pandemic, she is now in her second term and loving it. The first lesson after lockdown was a challenge. She cried much of the time and refused to let go of me, clinging to my chest like a limpet. Glared at the instructor the whole time. Thankfully, in the three or four lessons since, she’s back to her water-loving self, laughing and bouncing with excitement and much more engaged.
It’s hard for toddlers to learn to swim, but it’s important. Many infants drown each year, and familiarizing young children and helping them learn instinctively how to grab for the pool edge or not to panic in the water can help save their lives.
As my young tadpole learns to master swimming, as I’ve watched her learn and unlearn (and forget during lockdowns), I’ve learned some lessons myself.
God is like a supportive parent. He’s right there in the splashing water, holding us up and helping us to learn. Sometimes our heads go under the water, but that’s part of the learning process. If things get too much and we cry, He’s right there to hold us in His arms and comfort us.
One exercise is designed to get the little ones comfortable with moving their limbs around in the water. The child is encouraged to throw the floating toy out in front of them, or sometimes the parents must do it. The child will instinctively reach for the toy. The exercise is designed to get the limbs moving and to encourage the child to feel for the thing they want, reaching for their goal. In the past few lessons, I’ve noticed that my daughter is content to just stretch out in a superman pose but won’t kick her legs or move her arms. She knows Daddy will propel her to her goal. “Make her work for it,” the teacher said. It was then I realized my daughter expected me to do all the work. She was no longer reaching or learning to move in the water.
We can be like that in life sometimes. We expect God to help us reach our goals. While we can’t work ourselves to salvation and safety, we can learn to move in the situations we find ourselves in. We sometimes pray and place ourselves in a posture of expectedness, but we don’t kick! When the water is too rough, all we can do is let God carry us, but at other times, God places goals in our lives that we can push forward to receive. The challenges we encounter can help us grow if we take an active part.
My daughter is easily distracted by the lessons happening in other parts of the pool; she wants to grab the lane rope; she jumps into the pool (and my arms) before the countdown is finished. She’s sometimes overconfident and tries to go over to her mother on the sidelines. As she pushes out from my arms, she quickly goes under. I have to pull her up.
Sometimes we forget that God is holding us and has our best interests at heart. As we go through life, it is easy to forget the things God has done for us. We strive to do things without Him. Jesus, in one of His parables, talks about building on a strong foundation that cannot be swept away. Yet once we’ve experienced that foundation, we still strike out on our own. The only thing that can save us when we’re sinking is the strong arms of our heavenly Dad.
God doesn’t want us to drown in a sea of sorrows. He offers us joy; the exhilaration of learning new things and growing as His children, while His strong arms offer protection and support. He who stilled the storm with His voice assures us, “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36).