Coming into this season looked more like a dive than a step.
Oh and by dive I mean cannonball. Maybe even a belly flop. Either way, I closed my eyes and hurled myself into the deep ocean of unknown.
In our adolescent summers, my brother and I lived at the pool. First thing each morning, we put on our suits and rode our bikes to the Afton Village Swim Club.
We swam and swam, begrudgingly getting out for those dreadful ten minutes of adult swim. The only thing that could redeem that awful land prison: ice pops for a quarter. And it meant I could flirt with the lifeguards without feeling guilty about distracting them from their jobs. But mostly the ice pops.
At lunchtime, we went home to cook up Asian-inspired cuisine of Ramen noodles, then raced back to the pool, staying until after dark. We walked home with wobbly sea legs, limp from all that paddling and diving and splashing. The street lights wore shiny halos on those summer nights due to the copious amount of chlorine in my eyes.
We played a lot of games during the long pool days of summer. One in particular always stands out to me.
One person jumps from the diving board while the other throws the ball, a foam NERF ball—it was the nineties. The point is to catch the ball mid-air and be awesome.
Whenever my turn on the diving board arrived, my brother always happened to get exhausted, and would rest at a conveniently placed float on the northeast end of the pool.
Ready, set, ju—and along came Chris floating by, “asleep” on his float.
“Faker!!!” I screamed with heels raised and toes pressed into the board as if to project my voice and further prove my allegations.
“FAKER!” I screamed louder. “Fak—” a piercing stream of water shot me in the face.
A cackle from below proved my brother had, in fact, not been sleeping on that float, but hiding a water gun until he got just the right angle to shoot me.
Vulnerable and exposed, no weapon, no shield, he got me.
I thought I did what I supposed to. Thought I was playing the game, and boom. H2Oed in the face. In front of the cute lifeguard, no less.
Recently, I crawled up on that diving board again, only this one is less real and more metaphorical.
I thought I’d been playing the game by the rules, doing the right thing—what was expected. I took risks, but by faith. One step in front of the other. I would get to the edge, take a deep breath, jump in the air, catch the ball thrown at me, and land safely into a pool of applause and fulfilled dreams and promised land, right?
Turns out, I got to the edge of the board, took a deep breath, took another deep breath, started to take the plunge, and instead of catching the soft, cushy NERF ball, I got plastered in the face by a Supersoaker and landed in a pool of unmet expectations.
How many times do we expect because we have done all the right things, God will toss us a nice slow pitch, and instead it feels like he fakes us out with a shot in the face?
But God is not faking.
God, in the best way (that also happens to be painful, ugly, and messy), is reminding me of my desperate need for him.
At some point, I got to thinking I had a pretty good thing going.
That’s not to say I’m perfect. But I thought I heard the voice of God, thought I followed his lead. I thought I loved well, served well, prophesied and preached well. So where is my slow pitch and pool of promised land?
I’ve realized I don’t think he ever actually promised me a soft, cushy NERF ball. But he did promise he would be there. And if I would just climb the ladder, walk down the board, and jump, he would help me swim. And that’s what risk and trust is anyway.
It’s ditching entitlement and carrying gratitude.
Sometimes it’s splashing in the baby pool, getting familiar with the water. Other times it’s getting thrown right into the deep end, in the middle of it all. No matter, I believe he is not wasting our time or withholding promises. He is not tricking us into believing he is one thing when he’s another—we’re usually the ones pretending to be something we’re not.
He is father, redeemer, hope-fulfiller. He is kingdom creator and heart-seeker.
My head is barely above water most days, but I haven’t drowned yet. And I don’t expect I will, if I keep my eyes open to what he’s doing in the now, instead of complaining about what hasn’t turned out like I expected.
I haven’t drowned yet, and I don’t think you will either.
One day, our faith will be sight.
(photo credit: James Vaughn)