When I was in the third grade I took swimming lessons at the Collier Park Pool in Ramona, California. I can remember many scorching southern California days spent cooling off in that pool. But none stands out in my mind quite like the last time I ventured into the deep end.
The swimming lesson for the day was treading water. It’s a simple maneuver – anyone can do it. You simply get into the water, push away from the edge of the pool, and begin moving your legs and arms to keep your head above the water. Everyone floats and so this lesson should have been a simple one.
Only it wasn’t. For a skinny little girl with barely an ounce of fat on her and not the best lung capacity in the world it wasn’t simple at all. In fact, it proved to be impossible as I sunk to the very bottom of the pool unable to return to the surface. I looked up through the increasing expanse of water between me and the surface, still moving my legs and arms in the proper manner, but I was unable to return to the surface and save myself. Instead, my swim instructor had to jump in and pull me out. I don’t remember what the instructor looked like, or even whether it was a man or a woman. I only remember what it looks like to be sitting helplessly at the bottom of a 7′ deep pool.
Consequently, I’ve been afraid of water ever since. Even if I do get into the water – whether in a pool, a river, or the ocean – I always keep my head above water.
Yesterday at church our youth minister gave the sermon with a focus on the Holy Spirit (since it was Pentecost). She used the image of walking into the ocean until we were completely immersed as an illustration of being completely filled with the Holy Spirit. This was a difficult image for me. I don’t even like to think about being under water.
But as I thought about it I realized that her illustration coupled with my fear of water was the perfect example of how we, as Christians, often deal with the Holy Spirit. Just as I am afraid of being completely immersed in water, those of us who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit (because we have placed our trust in Christ Jesus) are often afraid of being completely immersed in and consumed by the Holy Spirit. We are okay with giving Him a little control, like dangling our feet in the pool, or maybe even getting all the way in – except we keep our head above water and keep at least a little bit of control for ourselves.
This reminded me of a song by Casting Crowns called Somewhere in the Middle. This song talks about how we often have deep water faith, but we stay in the shallow end. Fear often keeps us from taking hold of the abundant life that God has in store for us. We don’t want to give up our dreams because we aren’t convinced that God has something better for us. If only we could completely surrender to God and be immersed in the Holy Spirit, trusting that the deep end is not a scary place to be because Jesus will always be there to pull us through, I believe we would know the greatest joy.