Monday, October 23, 2006

summer memories: the deep end

More than five minutes left to go, and they are telling her to get out of the pool. Her confused look registers from clear across the aquatic complex, but she obeys, nonetheless. She stands on the cold tile, shivering and squirming, her questioning eyes following her instructors as they begin to walk toward the other end of the pool, the rest of her class in tow. My daughter follows them blindly as they lead her away from her three-and-a-half foot safety zone, take her around the corner, lead her to the rim of a twelve-foot-deep water-filled hole in the ground, stand her at the edge, and tell her to JUMP. She gapes at them with wide-eyed disbelief.

I recognize her anxious look—indeed, I feel it in the pit of my stomach, having grown up with a paralyzing fear of being in over my head. The shallow end is much more my style—I am infinitely more comfortable where my feet touch. My daughter lines up along the side of the pool, and I cringe inwardly, remembering my own first encounter with deep water. Get pushed off a diving board at swim lessons just once and you’ll learn not to trust. But that is my issue, not hers, so I smile encouragingly from my perch along the wall, and mask, yet again, my anxiety for my daughter. SHE trusts. Not fully, but enough to be brave. Enough to be obedient. I pray they won’t fail her.

Fourth or fifth in line, she has a few moments to contemplate her fate, her feet shifting back and forth, hands wiggling and wringing, as the questions flash across her face like the LED ticker in Time’s Square: will they catch me? Can I do it? What if I can’t? What will it be like? Do I HAVE to? The answers, unfortunately, will not come until after she takes the risk. Her turn arrives, and my heartbeat races as she approaches the edge. Her toes curl over the side of the pool in a final moment of hesitation—her arms stretching out in front of her nearly three times the length of her body in an attempt to cling to her instructor—and she half jumps, half falls into the water. Enough trust to jump, but not enough to do so with abandon. But she jumps, just the same. My daughter is in the deep end.

I am learning, albeit more slowly than my daughter, that so much of life is about just jumping in. High dive, low dive, running leap or barely falling off the side clutching our swim instructor—at least we’re in the water. But I can’t help but think there is more joy in the running-leaping-falling-diving kind of jumping than in the fearful-clingy-clutching kind. My daughter is getting it—learning what she is capable of, what she is comfortable with. She will learn to dive—of this I am certain. Me? I’m not so sure…

Having been caught, she makes her way to the side of the pool held by strong, trustworthy hands and searches for my face among the other mothers. She smiles—half victorious, half still uncertain—and I flash her a thumbs-up sign, once again in awe of this child that is so amazingly flesh of my flesh and yet so amazingly unlike me. Oh, to have the trust of a seven-year-old—to look into an immense stretch of deep water and only see the hands ready to catch me. To jump without hesitation, to obey without fear, to risk without answers. To embrace life, deep end and all, and jump in full force with a flying leap.

Oh, to have the faith that someone will catch me.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters. Psalm 18:16


jane said...

Lorie, I loved this !!! A great lesson for me to re-visit again.
Keep up the great work !!

lorie said...

Thanks, Jane! You're always a great encourager!!!!