I was terrified of being in water when I was a kid. It took me years to pass beginner level swimming lessons, much to the frustration of my family. When I was little every swim lesson was a battle that involved high stakes negotiations trying to convince me that it was safe. There were bribes of ice cream if I could just participate in the lesson, but even that couldn’t pry my little fingers from the edge of the pool. And God bless my parents for dealing with the resulting panic that ensued if and when my face went under the surface for more than a second.
Besides having a few scary water experiences as a kid, I think my biggest problem was my mindset. You see, that pool was so big and the water was so deep and I was so small that I knew that I couldn’t possibly win a fight with water. I didn’t see the pool as a fun, exciting place to play. I approached the pool as if it was a battleground – me against the deep. In my mind, survival was at stake, and what was wrong with these people who kept telling me to jump in?
Finally, when I was way too old to be with the little ones in the beginner lessons, but I hadn’t advanced to be with people my own height, I had one-on-one lessons with a fantastic teacher who, with patience and grace, helped me feel secure enough to know that the water would hold me in a backfloat. She tried valiantly to teach me actual strokes but the only lesson that stuck was that whenever I got panicky in the water all I had to do was flip over and just float, face to the sky, trusting that the water would carry me along. I could breathe. I could soften into the water. I could relax. I could let that panicky feeling sink, and trust that it wouldn’t bring me with it.
I’m still not a swimmer, but the wisdom of the back float stuck with me. In my mind, when I get that panicky feeling like the world is so big and I am so small I imagine myself flipping over with my face to the sky and picture the waters of God’s baptismal promises holding me. When I imagine being held in the waters of baptism I can breathe, soften, and relax into the knowledge that I belong to God and nothing can change that. Remembering my baptism reminds me to trust that God’s promises will carry me along, even in the deepest and biggest pools of life. May you remember the waters supporting you along the way, too.
Let us pray:
Good and Gracious God, we give you thanks for the gifts of creation. Make us wise stewards, compassionate guardians, and powerful advocates for all that you have made. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.