This past summer, our son Isaac and I went for a swim in the lake where my wife’s family rented some cottages for a vacation.
As great as it was to see Isaac demonstrate his improved swimming skills thanks to recent lessons, I was even more proud of him for venturing out towards the floating dock.
You see, Isaac and I swam together to that same dock the summer before, with the intent of jumping off and into the water.
Watching me cannonball into the lake and come back to the surface with a big smile alleviated some of his nerves, naturally, when it came time for him to jump.
Seeing me wait excitedly with my arms open and after a short countdown, Isaac took his first step off the dock.
But when his mesh water shoe caught on an exposed screw in one of the boards, Isaac hung off the dock helplessly.
He flailed in panic as I treaded water supporting him, keeping his head from going under the surface while trying to free him from his shoe.
After a short struggle, I was able to power him back on to the dock but Isaac, understandably, was in tears and screaming loudly in fear.
I was eventually able to calm him down and he clung to me as we swam back to shore. But while he may have escaped the dramatic sequence unharmed physically, there could be no disputing the emotional damage.
Perhaps out of stubbornness, I believed it to be necessary Isaac slay this proverbial dragon and conquer his fears. Otherwise, he could be haunted by them and possibly be resigned to quitting when faced with adversity later in his life.
The sooner he overcame his unpleasant past, the sooner he could forge ahead with confidence to take on new challenges and opportunities.
So after much encouragement and even insistence, I was able to convince Isaac of the importance of returning to the floating dock with me this past summer.
Listening to our son shout “I am not a quitter!” after he successfully jumped off the dock into the water gave me such a thrill, knowing Isaac stepped out of his comfort zone and took major strides of personal growth.
In a sense, doesn’t God call us to do the same, challenging us to venture into uncharted waters with Him? (Psalm 42:7)
At so many points in our lives, do we not shy from risks, resorting instead to playing it safe out of fear that we will figuratively drown?
It could be a teenager declining an opportunity to try out for a particular team or club or attend a conference on behalf of his school, based solely on how it might affect his personal free time.
Or, an individual could pass on a new job promotion, unsure of the prospects she would have to meet increased demands or work different hours.
A person coming off a longstanding relationship may be reluctant to get back into the dating game, rejecting an invitation to dinner due to not wanting to face the possibility of heartbreak again.
It seems we can turn down many different chances to discover God’s presence and available blessings, due strictly to our own comfortable or fearful nature.
Or, much like St. Peter did while on the water during the strong wind, do we stretch ourselves at first, only to hit a snag and immediately lose confidence in the midst of our struggle? (Matthew 14:22-33)
I know for me, our family life is extremely hectic these days, as all of our kids are in some sort of schooling program, my wife has returned to work and my teaching schedule is in full session.
Evenings during the week seem like a blur and weekends are typically pretty jammed for one reason or another.
With tense times such as these, I occasionally find myself exasperated, wondering if our life is too full and if we have reached an unbearable maximum.
However, as a friend reminded me recently, God has not brought me to a tipping point; He has brought me to a testing point.
When I think about this, I can realize God is stretching me.
I can see I am being challenged to grow in faith in Him, believing with conviction that all will work out in the end as long as I hold firm in hope and continue applying myself fully in His Holy Name.
And so, no matter the situation in our lives, may we always remember that, while God may call us into deeper waters, He assures us we will not sink.
While we may feel uncertain or afraid, God promises us we will be better than before, growing stronger by stretching further.
And as we swim out farther and deeper in life, let us never doubt God waits for us happily and wants to swim with us every step of the way.