When I was a kid, we had a pool in our backyard. My memory is that it took quite a while for me on those summer days to get in and swim. I’d sit on the deck and put my feet in while my sisters swam and my Dad’s transistor radio played. On particularly hot days, after a while, I’d lift up on my arms to dunk in a little further. Once I finally plopped down into the four-foot pool, I’d raise my arms up so they wouldn’t get wet, and I’d take forever to go under. Part of it was the dramatic change in temperature; it always took me so long to adjust (it still does). Part of it was that water always kind of freaked me out, and I liked keeping control (I still do). Part of it was that I never learned to go under without holding my nose. My sisters mocked me for it, and I did try to learn to do it the grown-up way, by breathing out through my nose and making bubbles, but every time, I emerged from the water, spluttering and coughing.
Each time I dared to dive under the surface, I was rewarded by a certain lightness and freedom down there. Even holding my nose, I could do a pretty good (one-handed) handstand or underwater somersault. And when I left the pool and wrapped myself in a towel, my skin felt like it was the perfect temperature. Sitting in a chair outside with a book during that time felt like a little piece of Heaven. Swimming underwater had a definite, positive result that I could remember, yet I continued to resist it. I still do. I don’t remember the last time I was fully submerged.
Today I live in the deep water, spiritually speaking, and it’s an uncomfortable place for me to be sometimes. There is so much out of my control out here, and I have to depend on God alone for so much. Bobbing on the surface of the water, I see my beloved church destroying not only others but itself. I see issues in my country and neighborhood and life, and there are decisions I can’t make, things I can’t fix. It’s chaotic and loud on the surface, and sometimes it’s too much for me. So when I can slow myself down long enough to meditate, it surprises me most of all that in my mind’s eye, I imagine myself diving under that deep water. Far further than I could ever swim, it’s so quiet down there. I picture myself swimming and twisting and resting while God deals with all that stuff I left behind on the surface. On rare moments, I let go of my nose and everything is actually fine. To my delight and surprise, I don’t drown. When I emerge from a time like that, I cover myself in Jesus like the garment He told us to put on, and I sit in the Son and read. And it works, for a time, until the heat of the day churns everything up once again.
Our world is an overwhelming place to be right now. Things we all agreed on not that long ago: the protection of children, truth as virtue, the value and necessity of honor over power, a connectedness in community, are not shared values any longer. We’re aimless, unmoored, bobbing out at sea. We’re looking to the horizon and waiting for rescue, and until that day comes, we can practice walking on water or we can dive deep.