Nothing in this world can fill me with wonder quite like water. Growing up next to a lake, I think a piece of my soul will always be tied to it. Whether it’s a heavy summer rainstorm that forces you inside with books and puzzles, or the morning glassy stillness of Lake Michigan when it seems like you're the only one awake for miles; just being around water brings me peace. When this world seems so crazy, its calming to think of the constancy of the ocean. Some days the water is clear and blue, while others it rages with angry waves crashing into the shore. Although the circumstances on the surface are as fickle as the tide, there is no force of nature that can disturb the stillness in the deep dark ocean. It’s always still. The waves come and the sun shines and life on the surface is unpredictable, but at its inner most being, the ocean is still.
I think God was so intentional when he designed water, because it helps us make sense of how he can be all at once; the Alpha and Omega. He has the awesome strength of a hurricane, yet he is powerful enough to calm a raging sea. He is pure, and simple, and refreshes the soul. He is majestic and beautiful; simultaneously all powerful yet perfectly at peace. If you’ve ever stood next to the ocean, you understand how something can be all these things at once. Water brings life, washes us clean, and marks new beginnings. We need it to survive. God created water in a way that fills us with wonder and awe to remind us of the sovereignty of its creator. Whenever I begin to believe I can do this life with him, God brings me back to the water.
And that’s where I’ve found myself recently: spending lots of time underwater. I sprained my ankle a few months ago, and I was mad at God. What bothered me wasn’t the fact that I hurt myself, but my personal realization that l wasn’t in control of a lot of things I wanted to be. It brought me shame, and forced me to rely on others, and subsequently brought me back to the water.
Since I was unable to run for much longer than I’d hoped for, I began to swim laps at the rec center. It was terribly messy at first, my sloppy strokes reminding me of my summer camp days and my constant fear of failing the swim check, but after a few weeks of swimming laps I got the hang of it. Once I figured out what I was doing, I realized I love to swim. Its meditative and repetitive and carries you through the pool like a waltz – Left leg, right leg, left arm, breathe. Left leg, right leg, left arm, breathe. The more I swam, the more I found myself looking forward to my time in the water. As an introvert, it became my escape. There were no distractions: just me, my waltz, and God.
While underwater, God helped me to see this world in a new way. Picture this: Our world is the pool, and God is air. As we swim our way through life, it’s our natural tendency to think we are all Michael Phelps. We want to believe that we were made to swim, and that we can do it all on our own. This world tells us, that if we are strong enough swimmers - if we are good enough at our jobs and make stellar grades in school - than we can swim through this life riding on our own accomplishments.
So, that’s what we aim to do: we push off the wall and swim like crazy, not coming up for air because if we were good enough, we wouldn’t need it. We aren’t weak like that. We kick as fast as our little legs can bear, but every time we try to live like this, we eventually find ourselves splashing back to the surface at some point; frantically looking for something to hold onto, gasping for air in our lungs. As humans, we too often forget who we are. We believe that our inability to breathe underwater comes from our own inadequacy, and we begin to trust the lies of this world. We just aren’t good enough, we can’t make it in this world. I am such a bad swimmer.
We forget that the only reason we can’t swim very far on our own is because that’s not what we were made to do. We weren’t designed to swim underwater. We were created with an intentional need for air. We’re all designed to need God, because our hearts and souls are anxiously awaiting the day that we will no longer be in the water, but with Christ. That’s what we were created for: the perfect paradise of Heaven. No water in sight, just fresh air in our lungs. When we remember our purpose, we are freed. It’s with this understanding that we can fathom the paradox that although we are in this world, we are not of this world. Nothing we seek in this world will ever satisfy our longing to be with Christ. God intentionally placed us in the water, but we were designed for something greater. Keeping this perspective helps us to enjoy the water without giving it the power to define us because our purpose does not lies in the water, but in something much greater.
No longer must we try to swim on our own. Now, we waltz, finding our power in God. Left leg, right leg, left arm, breathe. Left leg, right leg, left arm, breathe. When we remember to come up for air, our strength is renewed, because we know that it was never our own ability propelling us through the water in the first place. Only God’s breath in our lungs could ever keep us afloat. Left leg, right leg, left arm, breathe. Left leg, right leg, left arm, breathe.