Face Down, Reach and Pull

I’ve been sitting at the pool the last couple of weeks. Both of my kids are taking swim lessons. I’ve enjoyed watching them as they learn. This is Jamie’s first year. I wasn’t sure how he would do. He’s been very brave in the water. Goes under, jumps from the side. He follows the directions remarkably well. I am proud of him. And now I have proof that he can physically stand still. Good to know. But he’s not getting the actual swimming part yet. The first week, the instructor pulled him along on a pool noodle. He was deadweight. She’d remind him, “Reach and pull, Jamie. Reach and pull.” Nothing. He’d make a half-hearted attempt with barely a splash. Then back to floating. The little freeloader was happy as a clam, letting his teacher do all the work. I guess he thought she was there to carry him around the pool! This is swimming lessons, Jamie. Not the lazy river. Hysterical. The kid is a crack up.

He is making more movements on his own this week, but she still has to remind him every time. Today it was, “Face down. Reach and pull.” I heard that so often I started connecting it to my spiritual life. I guess I am now writing devotionals mentally at the pool. You can find a spiritual application virtually anywhere if you look and listen to what’s going on around you.  And in truth we do need to get face down before God. Faith only grows when we reach and pull.There’s no driftwood in the river of faith. No freeloading allowed. No riding on coattails. No half-hearted efforts or loafing either. God may allow us to lazily float along with the props for a while. He will even remind us again and again. He is gracious and kind. But eventually He’ll pull the spiritual floatie right out from under us. Swoop! Sink or swim, baby. Face down. Reach and pull. Jesus knows that’s the only way we will really ever learn to swim, because who doesn’t like a free ride? “Faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). And the waters of life are rough and deep. We must strengthen our spiritual muscles to stay the course and resist the undertow. Jesus pushes us for our own good.

When Jesus walked on the water, the disciples cried out in fear. They thought he was a ghost. Jesus said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water”. 

Come”, he said.

Peter got out of the boat and took a step toward Jesus. He did fine for minute, until fear gripped him. Then down he went.  “When he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out,” Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:26-30).

I think we are a lot like Peter and Jamie when we first get our feet wet in faith. We float in the ease and safety of the boat for as long as we can. When Jesus calls us out, we take a step, get scared, and then start to sink. We cry out for the Lord to save us, forgetting for that one brief moment we were actually walking on water. Doing what we didn’t believe we could.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).

What is it you are sinking in right now? What do you believe is impossible for you without the props? Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve taken that step and swallowed some water on your way down. It happens to everyone who is learning and growing in faith. Jesus is near. He will catch you when you are sinking. He’s the rock on which we can lean and stand. But He will set you right back up and turn you loose again. He will push you farther than you think you can go. Trust Him. A good teacher doesn’t do all the work for you. Jesus is a good teacher.

You can do this. Go, girl. Face down. Reach and pull.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:1, 2).

Next week’s lesson: deep diving.