It took me two years to learn to swim. It was scary. It was unfamiliar—that putting my head in the water and all that. My mother-in-law never did learn to swim and until she passed away she would not put her head under the water in the shower, even to wash her hair. I thought that was letting her fear have too much control; however as a pastor, I have seen so many people handle faith the same way she feared putting her head under water.
I don’t remember who taught me to swim—I do remember my mother putting me on the bus to ride through that Montana countryside to the indoor swimming pool. I can still remember the smell of the chlorine and feel the warm humidity in the building and standing with my little sister by the side of the pool, both wanting to get into the water and fearing it.
Two years. Two years of someone patiently coaxing me into the water and explaining how to put my face down to blow bubbles and telling me that was necessary in order to get to go down the big water slide. It looked like so much fun, and all the big kids were sliding. But . . . I was afraid.
As an adult, I still had a healthy fear, or respect, of the water. My children did not, however, and two of them would have drowned had I not been right by their sides as they floated away from me under the water. So . . . I taught them to swim as early as they were able. In fact, most of them were great swimmers before they were three.
In this photo, I want you to notice the smiles on the faces of those two little girls—they are not afraid. They are enjoying this process of learning. They have faith in their mommy who is right there with them. Then notice how loosely that mommy is holding onto the little one—that’s right—she is not holding. She is by the side, giving instruction and encouragement, with one of her hands gently supporting the little girl’s back.
I have often pondered on how much “learning to faith” is like learning to float. It is such an unnatural position—sticking your middle up and putting your ears underwater—if you think about what you are doing, down goes your bottom and you sink. But if you practice floating, it becomes more natural for you and you can even let your mind wander and enjoy the buoyancy.
Learning to faith, like learning to float, is not comfortable. It is not natural. It is difficult. We have a tendency to overthink and boom—down we go. But just like floating, we can reorient ourselves and regain our posture of confidence in what sustains us.
The writer of Hebrews gives us a mysterious definition of faith: it is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). As far as definitions go, that leaves a lot of uncertainty. But God is more dependable than the water in which we learn to float. We will never have to worry about drowning in God’s love and mercy. We can float on it without fear.
Take a lesson from learning to float . . . learning to faith requires us to practice a posture of vulnerability. To allow God to remain by our side, gently instructing and encouraging us as he watches over us. The danger will never come from the water—the only danger is when we forget who sustains us.
Floating in faith.