They say you remember trauma more acutely than pleasure. If the memories of my first high dive experience are any indication, it’s true.
I was in fourth grade. No one made me do it, but it looked fun. Something akin to flying. So, in my least favorite faded-red swimsuit, I leapt to my near-death.
A nanosecond after my limbs smacked the water, my head throbbed with pressure of chlorine water forced up my sinuses. I remember “rearranging” my swimsuit while I was still ten leagues under.
When I finally surfaced, I clung to the concrete ledge gasping, coughing, and crying.
Last summer I cried at the pool again. But this time it wasn’t me jumping off the high dive.
On that day, a little boy stood wide-eyed and dripping near the high diving board. He smiled as he watched the big kids twirl and flip, head first, feet first, laid out, and curled up. Almost as if they’d achieved flight!
His dad had come straight from work to the pool to watch a few minutes of swimming lessons. Scurrying between the board and his dad the boy seemed to be asking, Should I do it? Should I do something brave and scary?
His dad encouraged him. “Yeah! Try it.” The boy did the shivering shuffle over to the ladder, climbed up two steps, stopped, and went back to his dad. His dad knelt down and smiled, “You don’t have to,” he reassured him, “but if you want to try, I’m here to watch you.”
Finally, he climbed to the top of the high dive. With knees knocking from cold and fright, he bobbed at the end of the board.
Far below friends and lifeguards hollered advice: Just go! Plug your nose! Hurry up! It’s fun! I’ll buy you ice cream if you do it! It doesn’t hurt! (Whatever!)
His dad encouraged him. “You can do it.” But there was no bribery or threats about ice cream. He just waited.
Finally, bolstered by his father’s presence, he barely stepped off the edge and fell to the water. No flips. No twists. Just a brave little boy, smacking the water. He came up sputtering. Pulling at cockeyed goggles. Dog paddling to the ladder. Suppressing sobs.
His dad squatted by the ladder and lifted him out. Pressing his wet head into his father’s dry shirt, the boy let the sobs go.
And that was when I cried.
To me, it was a picture of God’s dealing with me.
How many times has God invited me to jump into fun, brave, and scary adventures: a college transfer, a move, foster care, a new job. The courageous people who’ve already jumped seem like they’re having so much fun! Or doing such meaningful work, or learning such important things.
With God’s kind permission I dip my toes in the water and do a little research. It’s cold, but not icy.
This location is good, and so is that one.
My work is meaningful, and I could also do that job.
Parenthood is important, and so is foster care.
Ministry is fruitful here, and also over there.
Everyone poolside is calling out advice, warning, or impatience. Hurry up and do it already! You’ll do great. That will be hard. Are you crazy?
So I pray. Lord? Should I, or shouldn’t I?
And my loving Father answers, “You can, but you don’t have to. If you do, I will be with you. If you don’t, I still love you, and I will be with you always. Either way, My grace is sufficient for you.”
Sometimes I’ve climbed back down the ladder and wondered what could have been. What would that mission trip, that move, or that job have been like?
On rare occasions, I’ve jumped and freestyled my way to the other side of the pool.
But most times I’ve come up sputtering wondering what in the world the Lord was thinking by letting me jump.
Then I remember that poolside father. The one who reminded me of my Father God.
He’s helping His scared and gasping child out of the water.
Soggy and sobbing, I fall into his arms. It felt like failure. The move was rough. The job required more skill. Foster care was demanding.
But my tears tell me I did something hard. My water-slapped skin tells me I still have sensation. My draining sinuses tell me I was all the way in.
Whether my faith looks “remarkable” to others or not…
Whether my faith feels remarkable to me or not…
I drape my soggy self around Him, and I realize My Father loves me whether I jump or not.
This article originally appeared at ShaunaLetellier.com. Her first book Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People releases July 11.