Leaving the Shallow End of Life

“You’re late.  Jump in.”
My 8th grade teacher pointed to the deep end of the swimming pool.  I opened my mouth to speak, but the words became lost in fear.  Clutching the towel around my awkward, shivering body, I walked to the edge of the pool and scanned its co-ed contents, looking for a friendly face.  Surely, someone would come to my rescue and invite me to join them in the shallow end.  Twenty amused and silent faces stared back at me as they tread water down the length of the pool.  We all wondered what would happen next.  “I… I… can’t …” Again, the words lay painfully silent.  The teacher raised a stern eyebrow and pointed to the deep water.  “I…  said… jump… in.”  I dropped the towel in sad submission and pinched my nose.  There was no escaping the inevitable.

I don’t remember the jump.  I do remember a great amount of coughing and gasping for air and the flailing about of arms and legs.  I remember the distant sound of laughter and squeals of adolescent delight.  I remember the voice of my annoyed teacher.  “PASS HER DOWN!” One by one, the boys and girls of my 8th grade class took me by the waist and “passed me down” to the shallow end.

I have remained in the shallow end of things ever since.

In both swimming pools and in life, I played it safe.  Never having learned to swim well, I was content to sit upon the side of the pool with legs dangling in the water.  Much in the same way, I pursued life with caution.  Rarely impulsive, I took risks only in case of emergency or after long and careful consideration.  I kept dreams out of reach and out of view, believing it was more important to be realistic and responsible.  My life remained within the safe confines of low expectations… until a few years ago.

It began with a journal, a Dream Journal as I would eventually call it, and the first words scrawled across the page.  “I refuse to live an accidental life.  We all desire to leave a mark upon this world, whether small or profound.  The only way I can leave such a mark is by living a life of intention, passion, purpose, and continual hope.  More than anything, I desire to leave a legacy of truth, faith, and most importantly, love.”

I soon filled my journal with all sorts of hopes and desires, secret longings and unabashed dreams.  Some, unfortunately, were self-serving and raw with grandiosity.  Other dreams, however, were nobler in nature, outwardly focused and compassionate.  I was no longer content to stand in the shallow end of life.  The more I waded in the stagnant pools, so to speak, the more I longed to swim.  I wanted to swim somewhere… somewhere in the deep end of things.

The apostle Peter, a fisherman, understood deep water.  He also understood the power of Jesus.

During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  Matthew 14:25-29

Known for his impulsivity in both word and deed, Peter dared to ask the impossible.  “Tell me to come to you on the water.”  Some biblical scholars argue that Peter’s request was not born of deep faith, but one of vain and selfish ambition.  Other scholars contend that Peter’s appeal was an expression of genuine love for Jesus and a willingness to follow Him.  Jesus not only knew Peter’s heart and motives, He fully knew him – the past, present, and future Peter.

Jesus knew him as a fisherman named Simon Peter, who willingly left his nets and boat to follow Him.  Jesus knew the proud Peter who would protest to having his feet washed and who would gloat that he would never fall away.  Jesus knew the fallen Peter who would deny Him three times and the broken Peter who would weep in grave remorse.  Most importantly, Jesus knew the plans He had for Peter and the leader he would become for the early church and future believers.  It was with this knowledge that Jesus invited Peter to walk on water.

“Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  Matthew 14:29

It is with Peter’s unashamed enthusiasm and determination that I want to pursue Jesus and life.  I expect to fall many times, but like Peter, I hope to rise through the strength of our Lord.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out,
“Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus
reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:30-31

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;  he drew me out of deep waters.”  2 Samuel 22:17

I stand near the deep end of the pool and listen to the voice of a new Teacher.
“Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid…. Come.”
I no longer fear the unknown.
I no longer fear the ridicule of others or the risk of failing.
There is a strong hand to uphold me.
I pinch my nose and jump.

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2 thoughts on “Leaving the Shallow End of Life

  1. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself! I admit to putting up a bold exterior while hiding my true heart’s desire and “sitting on the shallow end” on the poolside. Like you, I have pinched my rose and jumped in and while I do sometimes, like Peter, temporarily lose my focus and start to sink under water, Jesus is there to pull me out. Not sure where life is taking me, but I know who holds my hand as I take the journey!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement, Martha. It is reassuring to know the hand of Jesus is always extended. We are further blessed that there are others with encouraging words and helping hands- those who walk with us, those who have gone before use, and those who well know this road we follow. Blessings to you, Martha.