“I promise, sweetheart. It will do its job. It will not let you go under.”
As I said those words for the hundredth time that weekend, I looked once again into her skeptical eyes. The life jacket hung from my insistent hands, outstretched toward her in a desperate attempt to get her to believe me. Just believe me.
But to her, at four years old and seeing the lake for the first time, the water just seemed too big. Too “splashy.” Too deep and dark and uncertain. No amount of cajoling or pleading from mama and daddy would help her to see that yes, the wake from passing boats makes the water look scary….but that the strength of the life jacket to keep her above the water would be greater.
I even put a jacket on myself. “If she sees it work for me,” I thought, “perhaps she’ll believe that what I say is true. Maybe I need to model this kind of trust for her.”
But as I danced – yes, danced – on the dock with my life jacket firmly in place, I could see that it wasn’t working. As I jumped from the 20-foot dock with the life jacket around me, she wasn’t convinced. She just didn’t believe that it would be enough to keep her safe.
And she never did get into the water, despite all of our attempts to convince her and despite her obvious desire to cool off. Her fear outweighed her desires. Her uncertainty screamed louder than her trust. What we claimed had no power over what she was feeling.
We were frustrated and a little bewildered: why won’t she trust us? What can we do or say to help her to believe us?
But today, as I sit and stare into the waters surrounding me, I feel the same level of doubt and apprehension that she must have felt. No, I am not rocking on a dock with the wake and waves of passing boats. Today, I watch the rising waves from the steady table in my kitchen, but the rocking and the swaying and the obvious depths surrounding me? They are no less real.
Sermons to be written…the silent pages of my blog, waiting for me to write…phone calls with bad news about family health issues…housework beckoning…a daughter asking for me to play one more game of Crazy Eights…a refrigerator that mocks me with every mealtime….
I feel the rocking. I desperately grab onto the railing, hoping it will be enough to hold me up. Left to my thoughts for long enough, though, I eventually fall in. The cold water snatches me up from my place of safety, and as I go down….down….down into the waves I realize that I am every bit as untrusting as she is.
Somehow, through the cold embrace of the water and the pounding of the waves against my ears, I hear His desperate pleas.
Sweet daughter of mine, why do you doubt? Why don’t you believe me? My gracious presence will do its job. It will hold you up. It will carry you above the waves and keep you safe. Why – oh, why – do you not believe me?
As surely as the life jacket would have held her above the waves, His grace promises to hold me. As surely as her head would have stayed above water, my eyes would not see the threats of life if I kept them fixed on Him. As bewildering as her distrust was to me, my wavering belief is heartbreakingly more so to Him.
The thing is, to me, that when I allow myself to sink further and further into the icy depths, it’s not just that I fail to trust someone with greater experience that knows more than I do. I am failing to trust Someone who created both the wind and the waves they cause. I am distrusting of the One who stirs the waves with His words, and who can cause them to still with nary more than a thought. It’s not as much about trust, even, as it is about trying to do something that I was never meant to do.
I wasn’t created to stay afloat on my own. The weight and density of my body and spirit was never intended to keep me up and over the troubles of life. And that…that is why I have been given Someone who can do what I never could.
Today, I choose to believe what He is telling me. I choose to trust Him. I choose – even when the water is dark and rough – to let Him embrace and surround me, lifting me up above the fray.
I choose to believe. I choose to trust. I choose to cling to Him, knowing that He will cling even more tightly to me.
He will. I believe that He will because He says that He will.