No Swimming Allowed (Final)

No Swimming Allowed (Final) October 23, 2013

Click here to read part one of this story I’m sharing as a response to the recent Strange Fire conference. Click here for part two.

No Swimming Allowed (conclusion)

Dave was a left-brained guy, and decided to wait and see what the fruit of his encounter with God was before he talked about it with Christy. She’d always seemed content to stay on the shore and read about swimming, rather than diving in.

A litmus test for his new level of engagement with the Lord came when he was driving home from work a couple of weeks after That Night. (That Night had continued to reverberate in his prayer life, and in the way he found himself talking and thinking about God.)

At any rate, Dave was listening to “God’s Agenda Today” as he’d done every day for years. Midway through the trip home, right in the middle of Larry O’Brien’s vitriol-laced tirade about the coming One World Government, Dave turned off the radio. He was done with Larry and GAT. The silence was thick and lovely.

Different words filled the car in response to his simple prayer: “Teach me to pray, Jesus. Teach me to pray your prayers for my family and my church.” He drove toward home, listening, speaking, and listening some more. By the time he pulled into the driveway, he knew it was time to talk with Christy. There was no going back to the way things used to be.

Later that evening, after the kids were tucked in bed, he used stumbling words to try to explain how his relationship with God had shifted. He was learning to swim.

She’d sensed it. “Dave, I’ve been starting to question some of what we’ve been taught at Covenant Bible Chapel, too.” She swallowed hard, and added, “This is going to change things with us and the church, isn’t it?”

The word “change” hung in the air for a moment, a temptation to go back to the shore where things were safe and predictable. Dave’s ignited, renewed relationship with God was an irresistible invitation to wade in to the ocean after him.

The ocean was warm, and Christy was buoyant.

+ + + + + + +

My family used to drive through this town we affectionately dubbed “The Land That Time Forgot”. Tired bungalows with broken screen doors and avocado-sided ranch homes stood shoulder to shoulder along its streets. Rusty, beater cars lined the curbs. Every couple of blocks, a bar or an auto body shop punctuated the rows of houses like a stray exclamation point.

For some reason, the town had guys with more mullets per capita than anywhere else I’ve ever been, before or since. When we drove through this town in the years after the new millennium began, the time warp hairstyle on many of its males – and a good number of the women – always made us smile. The accompanying apparel (`80’s metal band T-shirts, skin-tight acid-washed jeans, and Michael Jordan-era high top basketball shoes) made this a place where time seemed to stand still.

Working-class economics certainly played a part. This was a town of factory employees, mechanics and waitresses. There wasn’t a lot of money available to chase style fads.

Dave and Christy came from this town. When my husband and I asked them about the preponderance of mullets, they told us that there was an attitude that long-time residents shared. “The town is like the star high school quarterback who spends the next three decades of his life reliving his senior year,” Dave explained. “The place is a museum of the past. The people there don’t think in terms of ‘The best is yet to come’. They’re all about ‘But that’s the way we’ve always done it’.”

Dave and Christy settled into a church that was as landlocked and familiar as their hometown. The church clung to the comfort of an idealized past – something even more retro than their hometown – in order to defend the present against the uncertain future. A rigid form of conservative anti-cultural living had become rule for many of their fellow church members. Covenant Bible Chapel was a place of aged wineskins and threadbare fabric.

Which had been mostly fine and safe and comfortable with Dave and Christy.

Until the Holy Spirit’s gift of questions, fears and doubts wooed them off the shore and into the ocean where he taught them to swim.

Polls are now open: What do you imagine Dave and Christy did next regarding Covenant Bible Chapel?


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