Have you ever been so afraid of doing something that you can’t imagine actually doing it? I have, often. As a kid, I remember staying awake all night before we went to the fair or a water park. Of course, there was some excitement. I did enjoy those activities. But it was mostly out of fear that I stayed awake. I remember running through endless possibilities of getting lost, riding a scary ride, or getting sunburn. (I know I was a weird kid. That’s another blog, another day.)
I’ve meant a few kiddos that have reminded me of my fears. My childhood fears, but also my adult fears. One in particular, who we’ll call Jon, personifies this emotion best. At the end of a session of swim classes, he and his class were about to jump off the lifeguard stand. Now, before you think I’m the worst Water Safety Instructor ever, know that this lifeguard stand was about five feet tall and was more like a platform than the lifeguard stands requiring lifeguards to balance and climb. Parents were generally coaxing their kids to jump while I was stationed in the water ready to catch them. This activity was designed to be a special treat for the kids. Usually it was empowering and fun for them. The first jump, half of the kids are always a little nervous and a few always choose to jump from the side. They always have an option to jump. Except Jon.
You see, Jon was very afraid of the water. He was scared to use the kickboards, he was scared to swim to the deep end, he was scared to swim with a noodle. The first day, he was scared to even enter the water from the steps. Each activity brought new fears, but always ended in new triumphs. The day we were jumping off the lifeguard stand, Jon was afraid to jump. He got up there and immediately regretted his decision. I told him it was okay not to jump and said he could just jump off the side like some of the other kids. Jon’s dad had other plans. After all the other kids jumped and had moved to their next activity, Jon was still paralyzed on the stand, his dad was still telling him he had to jump, and I was turning into a prune in the water waiting. I’d love to tell you that Jon’s dad gave him an amazing pep talk, Jon courageously jumped in the water, I caught him, and we all celebrated. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened. We spent an hour trying to get Jon to jump. Jon’s dad coached, bribed, threatened, pleaded, and prayed. Jon still wouldn’t jump. I empathized, negotiated, and played. Still nothing. The coach in me felt out of control and unproductive. The human in me was tired of treading water (with a buoy, thank God), sore from looking up for so long, and, frankly, annoyed at Jon for his hesitancy and his dad for his persistence.
But the Holy Spirit in me was broken for this little boy. Jon was more scared than the average little boy his age, but not outrageously so. He was still little, elementary-school aged. I watched him try so hard to please his father. I watched him want to please his daddy when he said “son, I’ll be disappointed in you if you don’t do this” or “son, you have to be a man and do this.” I wanted to hug him when he cried to his dad and his dad responded mercilessly. Finally, Jon’s dad had to go to work and he let him jump off the side rather than the stand. When I caught him, he was covered in snot. The poor little boy had cried so hard that he literally had snot dripping from his nose to his belly button. Though my entire face was now slimed as he grasped onto me, my neck was stiff from looking at him, and my next swim class was half way over, I could not help but ache for this little boy that left the pool feeling like such a failure.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a parent. Raising a godly man is a daunting task and I know Jon’s dad was working to train his child to trust God.
But oh how I hurt for the boy that tried to leap.
I can’t help but think that God celebrates all our leaps–even when we can only leap from the side, not the stand. I also can’t help but think that God catches us when we leap and does not care if we are covered in snot. After all, doesn’t every leap require some sort of shedding? Some sort of release and vulnerability? And doesn’t our worst self often come out during those tough moments?
Here are a few verses that convince me God does celebrate our leaps, our attempts, and always catches us with acceptance and joy:
In Luke 8:43-48, a woman was healed as a result of touching Jesus’ garment. I’m sure there was greater faith required in that action than we realize, but regardless she didn’t jump off a mountain. She merely touched his garment. Yet, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (verse 48, emphasis mine). Jesus commended the faith of her seemingly small action, her little leap, and Jesus called her “daughter.” To me, Him calling her daughter is a lot like being caught in the arms of the Savior after a leap, even a small one.
This same faith healing encounter happens over and over again in the Gospels. Zacchaeus, the Centurion, and so many others experienced these precious moments with the Messiah.
Jesus even said in Matthew 17:20, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (ESV). God doesn’t require big faith to move mountains, He requires faith the size of a mustard seed.
Finally, Hebrews 11 celebrates great faith…that is surprisingly small. Although the Bible celebrates this amazing group as people of great faith, what makes them people of great faith is what God did through them. They did believe and they did take leaps, but they also often failed to jump off the stand, questioned God, and tried to go the easy way. They fell short. Instead of writing them off, God used them to do amazing things and even celebrated their faith.
Faith is not my strong point. I will still always resort back to be the little girl worrying about what could go wrong before I take a little leap. Though my flesh prevents me from catching or seeing like God (and my fatigue later in the day displayed that well), catching that little boy reminded me of how the Lord catches me. Snot and all. Without great faith. I’m humbled God let me catch Jon that day and I’m humbled the Lord still uses me and my little leaps.