learning to swim.

Okay look, this week I’m cheating…a little bit, at least.

I’ve been going through my journals from the Race lately, which has been a really great process. I tend to fill journals really quickly and then shelve them for a few years before I ever go back to them, so it’s been nice to walk through some of my writing while it still seems fresh (even though it’s not exactly fresh).

I realized there were a lot of stories from the year, ones that made a serious impact on my heart, that I chose to confine to those pages. And that’s great for some things, but sometimes I don’t know, I think we need to share the way God uses people and situations and the silliest of metaphors to teach us. I learned a long time ago that lessons of God’s character aren’t meant to be hoarded, they’re meant to be shared.

And so for today’s edition of “Words for a Wednesday,” I’m sharing a lesson of God’s character (and also a gut check lesson of my own) that a precious angel named Cassandra helped to teach me in the Philippines. Congratulations, your very first unedited, unfiltered glimpse at my journals from around the world….

Day 10 – September 20, 2013
(part one of the day has been omitted, but I have a feeling it won’t stay hidden forever).

After lunch, we had some time to sit and just be, and it was so nice and so needed. My emotions exhausted me this morning and I was just not ready to jump directly back into something.

Lucky for us, jumping into ministry for the afternoon meant literally jumping in the pool with the Community Angel girls. I fall more and more in love with them every time I get to hang out with them, whether it’s actual “ministry time” or just outside in the streets after our day is over.

One of the leading causes of death among children in the Philippines is drowning. I was honestly surprised to hear it and I guess I shouldn’t have been considering how common flooding is here, but the blissfully ignorant American in me assumed that kids just knew how to swim, because I can’t remember NOT knowing how to swim. But that’s simply not the case here, where something like 8 people drown every day.

So yeah, swim lessons quickly became part of KIM’s ministry to the community. I’m pretty comfortable in the water, I guess, but knowing just how important these lessons were for these kids’ lives made me really not want to give swim lessons.

Most of the girls gathered in the kiddie pool because they could stand with their heads well above the water, and when they practiced their floating and swimming, finding safety meant only having to reach their foot down to solid ground.

A girl named Cassandra swam/walked over to me and said “Tita, Tita help.”

Tita means aunt, a term of endearment, and it’s absolutely the best thing to hear a precious Filipino kid call you.

 

I held Cassandra as she practiced floating, but every time I moved my hands away she got scared and put her feet back down. We worked slowly, but eventually she realized how easily she could float on her own if she didn’t let her fear get in the way. In her words –

I am scared, it is no good. I am not scared, it is good.

She watched her friends who were in the big pool next to us and told me of her dream to one day swim with them. I smiled and simply said,

How about today?

I told her I’d be right beside her and she didn’t have to worry or be scared of the big pool, because I was here to help. I switched pools and she stood on the edge unsure. Jump! I told her, Jump and I will catch you!

After lots of cheering, Cassandra finally jumped. And she freaked out, until she realized that I really did catch her and that I was still holding her.

She practiced her swimming across the width of the pool with me in front of her, holding out my arms. She’d swim a little way and get scared, grabbing for my arms. Each time I’d walk backwards a little more, making her swim a little bit further and each time she’d reach out for my arms in fear.

Once I kept my arms at a distance she couldn’t quite reach, and she kept swimming for them. When I finally did lift her, she looked at me in disbelief – “Titat you did not help! I was scared! I couldn’t find your arms – why did you help me?”

All I could do was smile when I said “Cassandra, look where you are. You made it to the other side of the pool!”

She grabbed the side of the pool and laughed, thrilled that she had done it.

Truth is, Cassandra could swim all along. I watched her kick and paddle in the kiddie pool and she could definitely swim – it was her fear of deeper water that got in the way.

We celebrated and played for the rest of the afternoon and the little girl scared to leave the kiddie pool became the little girl who loved the deep pool.

A lot of times we go on mission trips thinking about all the things we’re bring to a place, all that we’re doing for them…but we forget that they’re bringing things to us, too. It would have been really easy to walk away from Cassandra patting myself on the back for giving her successful swimming lessons, thinking what a gift I had given her.

In reality though, Cassandra had given me something much greater: she had given me a picture of myself, a deep reality check as to where I was with the Lord and how I interact with him.

There’s a lot of times when I remain content in the kiddie pool of my faith – it’s safe there, no point in taking a risk when I’m totally fine being here, right? But God calls us to risk, to put our lives, our reputations and our security on the line for him and His name. Being able to stand up in a kiddie pool isn’t going to do me any good when the water rises. And so he calls me into the deeper pool, the one that exposes my fears and insecurities and my desperate need of him to keep me afloat…and He teaches me to swim there.

Every time he pushes he a little bit further, teaches me a little bit more, draws me a little bit deeper out. When I get overwhelmed with fear or insecurity, he is quick to open his arms to me, to show me there is nothing to fear. And when I respond in anger or doubt, blaming him for letting me fail, falter or for not being there for me, he gently smiles and with patience and joy says “yes, but look where you are now.. look where it has drawn you. Look at the fear you’ve pushed through. Look at how I came this way with you. Look at what you have now learned.”

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(Lindy Hickman Photography)

 

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