She clings tightly to the edge of the pool, knuckles while with fear of the unknown. My eyes grow hot but I fight it, surely you can’t cry on the side of the public baby pool in the middle of a perfect Sunday afternoon. I taught her how to swim. But it has been two years this month since she’s lived in my home and longer since she’s been in a pool. The swirl of the cold water and the way it will carry you if you simply relax but pulls you under when you stiffen in panic has become foreign to her.
“Come on!” Patricia pulls at her and it strikes me that she’s just the same age now that Jane was on that day when I packed her backpack and sent her home with her mother and it seems too little. I let the tears fall and ask Him, “What do I do with grief like this on a beautiful, sunny Sunday while kids splash happy all around me?”
“Give it to me,” He whispers.
As the tears clear I see that Patricia has successfully pulled her reluctant friend into the center of the pool. The water reaches only to her chest, but still she is tentative; I know that look in her eyes even as her face tries to smile. Within minutes the reserve melts into relief. The pool! We like the pool! And there she is dancing and splashing and laughing with the rest of them.
The big girls can’t resist all this giggling joy in little sisters and they pull all three over the dividing wall and into the big pool. Again her eyes dart. Is it safe here? She grabs for the edge. But the big girls pull her to the middle to laugh and splash and play and when they don’t let go, she regains her confidence. Soon she’s swimming and splashing and laughing with all her might, fully comfortable with the water all around her, and when it is time to go, she is the hardest to get out.
I wrap her in an enormous soft towel and repent as I pull her close. You would think that I would just be thankful that we still occasionally get these windows of time with her. Who has to give up a child and then still gets to see her sometimes? Not many. I think of all the women I know whose babies have just not woken up in the morning and I know I should be grateful for this gift.
But I’m clinging to the side of the pool. I am clinging to the past and to my what-I-thought-should be instead of to His perfect what-will-be.
I know about the middle of the pool. I know how to swim! I’ve tasted and I have seen that the Lord is good; I have testified with my mouth and known deep in my heart that His will is better than all my plans. I have put together the right words and tied it up in a neat little bow and written it up for the world to see – See! His will is the best! We love it here.
But today a big broken piece of my flesh is clinging to the side, longing for the past and the way I thought I wanted life to be. And the reality is, when I cling here, I don’t have to say a word. My white knuckles and my tense body and the posture of my heart say, “but what if its not? What if His will is just scary cold water and I’ll just stay here on the edge, thanks.” And right there on the side of the pool He uses this little one to bring me to my knees, again.
Who is God when we are clinging to the side? He is the one who comes to right where we are. He is the one who takes our hand and pulls us back to the middle and won’t let go. “Remember, love?” He whispers, “You can swim. I taught you how to swim.” And He doesn’t let go, not ever. Stiffened in panic and doubt, I sink, but relax and lean into Him and the floating comes back easily. The side is not nearly as marvelous as it is out here.
The hope and joy that is found in Jesus Christ, who is working all things for the good of those who love Him, is enough to carry me.
We know this. But the truth is, we all forget. I forget. Life’s hard stings and I question and I wrestle and I believe with all my heart that He will make it all beautiful one day, but can I open my eyes to see that He is making it beautiful now? Right this moment? Because as He pulls me closer to the center of His will, He is only pulling me closer to Him. As I choose to trust Him, again and again and again and again, He promises me that He is transforming me into His likeness. And closer to Him? That is the only place I really want to be.
Stop fighting. Stop holding on so tightly to what you thought you needed for security. Come on out here to the center. He won’t let go. And it’s marvelous here.