Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fear for Joy

What makes you shudder at the mere mention of it....sends a chill down your spine? Zombies maybe?[They are pretty popular these days.] Well, one of mine was less grotesque from a physical standpoint but equally scared the ba-jeezus out of me. 

It all had to do with a simple diving board.....

Right around 4th grade I was signed up for swimming lessons- passed my first class with flying colors. Then, I was moved up to the "Advanced" class. The second week or so the instructor lets us know that on top of being able to hold our breath for a minute, dive for rings at the bottom of the pool, swim in place for 2 minutes, and complete 10 order to pass the class we had to dive off the diving board.

You'd have gotten a kick out of my expression when that bomb dropped. Think pale as Wednesday[Addam's Family], eyes like a deer in headlights like what. just. happened?! I thought, "Excuse me, did you say diving board? The super-high, 5 meters or whatever it is one [a.k.a. 16 ft. for all the people like me who check in to la-la land when math and conversions come up]?" As much as I wanted to imagine I'd heard wrong, my ears had not deceived me.

Looking up at that diving board that pretty much looked like a high-rise to me and trying to envision mustering up the courage to even just leap off that thing was the most petrifying notion ever!
[For all my thrill-seekers out there that think I'm a wimp: Yes! Yes I am.] On a good note, it was added that as long as we did it by the end of the session we'd pass the class. 

There was my salvation....Yes! I didn't have to do it right then, and we still had 4 more weeks of class- plenty of time to stall. 

So, every class I'd skirt along practicing everything else: perfecting my dive[from the side of the pool], holding my breath, and each class out of the corner of my eye I'd notice the other kids heading up that diving board, one by one, plunging into the water and rising up to cheers and applause. I'd clap along and cheer them on from the opposite side of the pool in total support...awesome for them![ Two thumbs way-way up.] As for me, it served as zero encouragement that they all did it. The fear was way too intense. It was like I was stuck, reached my limit, and just plain felt like there's no way I could do that. 

Can anyone else relate to having such feelings?

Four weeks flew by in what seemed like a blink of an eye, and here I was in the pool on the very last day of class . No more opportunities to delay. No more days left to avoid the inevitable. Today was the day it had to be done. Even though I knew it, somehow I still thought there had to be a way I could get out of it.

I shuddered at the sound of "last call" from my instructor as the end of class drew near. Looking over to my parents, I saw their look of urgency and frustration. They called out, "Get up there, hurry up!" Letting out a long breath, as slowly as I possibly could, I made my way over to the steps that I thought would surely lead me to my demise. 

Why couldn't they understand how much I really did not want to do this? I wasn't ready.

Grasping tightly onto the metal rail, I pulled myself up, firmly placing each foot on the cold, wet, bumpy surface of each step. One by one I rose, pausing in between, not daring to look down. My heart raced in my chest as I met my fear face-to-face at the top of the stairs. Looking around and feeling that eery silence, I felt completely alone. It seemed as though it was just fear and me up on that platform. It whispered to me affirmations of doubt and danger, assuring me it would be much easier to just step down and return to the safety below.

Somehow something propelled me forward and further toward the edge of the diving board. The spring of the board under my feet confirmed I'd arrived and all that remained was for me to jump. I lingered momentarily...feeling it out- the firm hands releasing their grip of the railing- the very last stitch of safety I had left. My body sprung forward and I felt the air completely surround me. I can't recall there being even a split second where I felt the the slightest opportunity to think of retreating. It was as if my heart leapt without stopping to consult my mind, where all those fears and anxieties resided. I plunged into the warmth of the water below, swam up to the surface and felt this incredible rush of exhilaration just wash over me as I regained my breath. I couldn't get out of the water fast enough to go and jump off the diving board again! 

This time I skipped steps- getting up to the top as quickly as I could- raced to the edge and dove in. Fearless and free I soared into the air. The same thing that moments ago had brought me so much fear now gave me the biggest thrill and form of release I had ever experienced! Those last few minutes were the most fun of my entire swim lessons combined! I made it up and down about a dozen times before they finally had to kick me out. 

I remember so clearly as we drove out of the parking lot, my wet hair framing my smiling face as I looked out the window to that magnificent diving board. A symbol of a fear overcome and conquered.

Through life, I think it's safe to say, many of us are faced with challenges that produce in us feelings of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of judgment, fear of feeling pain. It's an internal battle that wages against us and if we allow it, it pulls us into a deep pit that we feel we can't get out of- where no one can reach us. I've been in that very pit. 

However, now looking back on that memory of diving off that diving board I will use it as a reminder that in the moments I encounter where fear will try to rob me of the growth, the goodness, and the experiences that God has planned for me- for his purpose, I have a Father who is always for ME[for US], and he will not leave me[us] ever to face things alone.

He says "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified [because of them], for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."(Duet. 31:6) In Isaiah 41:13 he also says: For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

There was definitely a time[not going to lie]I thought that once I accepted Christ as my Savior life would be so much easier, that it would be like one of those Staples easy buttons would pop up for me. I learned quickly though that it's not easy in the way I imagined, and that knowledge is one thing but Action on the other hand is a whole other ball game. He gave us free-will to make the choice to receive but we still have our part to play and it requires a level of faith and trust that I still am working on.

I will say this though, even though I did not know him that day as a little girl so very afraid to jump, I know now that he definitely was there with me then. He braced me from beneath as I cautiously took each step leading up to the diving board, he walked beside me as I neared the tip of the board, and it was Him who grabbed my right hand and jumped with me to reveal something new: I wasn't alone after all, I don't have to be afraid, or be weary of the unknown(Psalm 16:8).

If I trust in the process of the journey, look to experiences like this one where he's already given me tastes of triumph; it will only increase the power of my faith where He will help me to conquer those things of the flesh and reveal to me joy[s] that could not be experienced without taking steps very much like those I took that day.

I have had many "diving boards" to face, and there will be more in the future. There may be weeks of "footsteps" to walk up to it, months of "steps" to climb, maybe even years to move forward past the pain and fear, but no matter how long and how hard the journey may be, all those fun-size triumphs he's revealing to me help me to believe he will deliver joy and blessings out of it all.

Let's conquer those things holding us back and holding us down, be intentional in the steps we take- the words we speak, and believe that just as he conquered death he will conquer all, with us.

...despite ALL these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.(Romans 8:37)

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.(Phil. 4:13) 




  1. Diving boards...I once ran away in nothing but a swimsuit because I didn't want to jump into the deep end of the pool! Thank you for the post, it was well worth the wait.

    1. No too?! Funny thing is, not too long ago I passed by that same pool and when I saw the diving board I thought, "That doesn't look as high as I remember it." Perception sure changes over time, doesn't it? Lol...Thank you for being so patient and for your encouragement; so grateful you were touched by my story. :))