“Kick, kick, kick” is repeated over and over again in my head after I teach kids how to swim each morning. I often lay down to sleep and can’t think of anything other than kids giggling and splashing. (No wonder I seem to fall asleep so easily each night.)
Some of the kids I teach are fearless. They’re ready to jump in and swim as soon as they arrive. Many of these kids are already good swimmers, so they don’t have much of a reason to fear the pool. Others sink as soon as they jump off the side, so their bravery baffles me. As many times as they have to be pulled out from under the water and frantically catch their breath, they’re still not afraid to jump in by themselves. (Thankfully, there aren’t too many fearless kids that can’t swim. Otherwise, we’d need a lot more coaches.)
Not surprisingly, the majority of the kids that can’t swim are fearful. Some are reasonably cautious, but willing to get into the water with a coach or floaty. Others are downright petrified. For some reason, these petrified kids are my favorite. They’re the ones that scream and cry. They’re the ones that hang onto my neck (and often my hair) with a death grip. They’re the ones that I have to tickle to let go of the steps. They’re the ones that cause me to want to take a nap every afternoon. But they’re also adorable and I can relate to their fear.
I’ve never really been afraid of water. I have a respect for it from watching my dad rescue my sister as a toddler and being badly tossed by a wave more than once, but I’ve never feared it like these kids do. I do have a lot of other fears though. As I’ve watched these panicked little kids fight the water, I can’t help but think about me fighting God about some of my own fears. One little boy and I start each morning with the same conversation:
“You ready to swim, Noah?” I ask.
“I’m not ready! I just can’t!” Noah promptly replies while clinging to the steps. You’d think I’d stop asking and just say, “Come on, Noah!” Nonetheless, we go through this every morning. Noah’s fatal mistake is his adorable little grin. It’s hard to feel too bad about pulling a four-and-a-half-year-old off the steps when he’s laughing uncontrollably—even though he’s clearly scared to death. What makes it harder is his genuine pleas not to flip him on his tummy, make him kick, or make him use his arms. (It doesn’t help that he’s also the most polite kid I’ve ever met.) Although my arm is always tightly wrapped around his chest or tummy, Noah does not like the idea of letting go of me or the steps. He constantly begs, “Please take me to the steps. I’m not ready. I just can’t! I’m only four-and-a-half! Maybe when I’m thirteen! Or eleven! Or five!” Despite the terror in Noah’s voice and eyes, he can always do what he thinks he can’t. Each day he’s able to do more and more. The new stuff continues to be scary, but the old stuff isn’t quite as bad.
I love seeing Noah learn and grow. It’s hard to watch this cute little guy suffer through each lesson, but the reward is sweet. This is what makes me think of God. As hard as Noah fights me, I know I fight God harder. I cling to the side so hard sometimes that no tickling or pulling could ever loosen my grip. I scream, beg, and cry louder than this little boy ever could. While Noah’s responses are always polite, mine can be downright mean. Yet, the Lord holds me tighter and loves me more than any coach could a student. Watching Noah suffer and grow each day reminds me how the Lord watches His children suffer and grow. He doesn’t like hearing us scream and cry, but He knows what’s best for us and loves watching us grow.