I spent six summers as a lifeguard in high school and college. Looking back now, it is still one of the best jobs I've ever had. There was such a camaraderie among the lifeguards each summer and I don’t know that I often complained about going to work. Sunshine, friends and snack breaks – what more could you want? The pool I worked at was considered a water park, although it only had two short waterslides, but what defined it as a water park was that it had a zero entry pool. This means that you walk right into the water and it gradually gets deeper and deeper. It’s great for the moms who want to sit on the side in about an inch of water and watch their kids swim, but it’s bad for kids who walk in and splash around and are suddenly too deep to touch the bottom. We saw it all the time – enthusiastic swimmers would walk out just far enough that they couldn’t touch so they'd start flailing their arms and swallowing the deep end and we’d blow three whistles to let the head guard know we were jumping in to save them.
I have a good friend that never learned how to swim. I think he could keep himself from not drowning long enough for someone to get to him, but I don’t know that for sure. Because of all my lifeguard experience, I always tell him, “If you’re ever in a situation where you think you’re going to drown, don’t panic. I will save you.” I feel really confident of this even though he's both heavier and taller than me. While it's not Aaron that can't swim, he and I have practiced this in both a pool and the ocean - him letting all his weight sink and me pulling him up and swimming to the side. Of course the only way this is possible is if he stays calm. You’ve probably seen it before where the person drowning starts to panic so they grab on to the rescuer and try to use them for leverage to get above the water and in an effort to stay up they push the other person under. So I said to my friend, “I’ll save you, but if you start to panic, I’ll have to punch you in the face so you don’t drown us both.” I laugh at my own self when I think about the sight of that. I mean I can’t imagine punching anyone in the face, let alone enough to knock the calm into them.
I recently read, Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen and a section that really hit me was on the idea of rest and how God provides rest for our weary souls if only we'll let him. Does anyone feel weary right now? Can I get an Amen? I think we're all a little weary sometimes. In the same chapter Allen asked, “In what way are you fighting against God right now?” I read that line and it's when this visual of drowning came to mind. Is your weariness a result of fighting? How often is God trying to rescue us but we’re flailing our arms in a panic? God’s trying to gently say, “Relax. I will save you,” and yet we’re flipping out while spouting off a million “what about’s”. You know, like, what about these bills? What about my relationship with my mom/dad/family? What about my kid? What about my debt? What about my dreams? What about my boyfriend/girlfriend? What about meeting this need? What about this illness? Flail. Gasp. Panic.
For over ten years I was flailing in the arms of God while he was waiting there to rescue me. My what about's were, “What about giving me a husband? What about a new job? What about my dreams and my timeline?" I had zero confidence in God’s ability or even desire to give me a husband. I was willing to give God everything else in my life, but specifically sectioned off this area and wouldn’t let him touch it because I did not believe he would provide. Too many times I had been let down. Too many times I thought I was trusting him and doing what he wanted and still I was heartbroken. Too many times I felt abandoned by God in the relationship arena while I was used up. So I was flailing hard against him, refusing to rest and if I were him, I would have certainly punched me in the face.
Fortunately, he doesn't work that way and there came a point in my life where I had to admit to God that I was a wreck - that I was trying to shove him under the water and save myself, that I didn’t believe. I said to him, “I don’t trust you, God. I don’t trust you to provide. I don’t trust you in this area. I want to, but I don’t.” And it was in that moment that I finally stopped flapping my arms around like a lunatic and started to rest. I prayed the words of Mark 9 where the father says to Jesus, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!”
I do believe, God. At least I want to! Help my raging unbelief in you. Help me to take that unbelief and turn it into unwavering faith. I do believe. I repeated this in my prayers. I wrote it out in my journal. I do believe. Help my unbelief, God! It’s kind of like one of my previous posts about how negativity begets negativity. If you keep telling yourself you don’t trust him and you don’t believe him, well then you won’t. Believe me on that. So instead remind yourself – remind your heart – that you do believe that he will save you. He will provide the answer to all of your what about's! He will. But faith isn't a permission slip for passivity. Rather it will give you the strength to keep doing the next right thing.
It's also not to say he will answer those "what about's" how you would like and on your timeline. I thought I would be married ten years ago and have three kids by now, but at this point I’m 32 and only three months into marriage. After we got married, we moved across the country to a new place even though I told God and Aaron multiple times, "I'm never moving to Hawaii." I'm sure you can still hear me laughing myself all the way across the ocean because God loves to take our never and turn it into yes. So in my marriage and moving, God answered my unending, “What about?” question and now I’m thinking, “Wait… this wasn't my plan! I mean I’m a Nebraska girl. I can't live in Hawaii. Oh no, oh no.” And let me tell you what, it has been hard. It's been good, of course, but it has also been very hard in a lot of ways.
And in the midst of it being hard, I'm back in a position where I have a choice to start flailing my arms. I feel faced with that choice every day – the one where I can panic and take back this area of my life, put a rope around it and not let God in because oftentimes it's more comfortable when we feel in control. But instead I’m reminded each day in a fresh way that I don’t have to flail. I don’t have to save myself. He's here. Whether it’s something on the radio, or something I’m reading, or the comforts of friends and family, I know in my heart that this is the right next step and that being here now has always been the plan for my life.
In her book, Allen writes,
“Why risk our comfort? Because on the other side of God-oriented, Scripture-informed risk is everything we are looking for: nearness to Jesus, greater faith in His power; deeper, richer experiences and relationships; satisfaction and enjoyment of the short life we have been given.”
Take the risk. Step out in faith to do the next right thing that God is calling you to do. Even if all you can say as you take that step is, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!" In the midst of fear. In the midst of letting go of comfort. In whatever way you're fighting against him, right in the thick of it all, resist the temptation to flail and just rest in faith.
Where are you struggling to believe him today and why? I'm guessing it's because, like me, you feel let down or left out or left behind in some way and now you're rehearsing all the reasons why He can't be trusted and exhausting yourself while you drink in the deep end of the pool. But, we have a God who wants you to stop flailing your arms when he’s asking you to rest. He will save you. Rest. Breathe. Believe.