The former swimmer in me doesn’t rise up as much as it used to. After all, it’s been almost 20 years since my last school competition. But it’s not a swimming memory that has been on my mind lately. Rather, it’s one from lifeguard training–and it’s treading water.
Competitive swimmer or not, treading water is no easy feat. And especially when treading with a brick! Or with another person in tow…too bad I don’t have a picture of that!
The truth is….
Only a few seconds separate strength from weakness when you’re treading water.
My five-year old and I have been having swimming lessons while the older kids are at school. He tells me he can swim, and I agree, he can float, he can spin around in the water, he can move through the water. But I don’t really care if he can “swim.” What I care about is whether he can tread water, whether he can keep his head up when his toes can’t touch.
Which is what I tell him every day.
“You need to learn to swim, yes, but it’s even more important that you can keep your head up when you can’t touch.”
In daily life, there is deeper truth here too!
How many of us know how to “swim,” how to navigate whatever waters of the day that come our way, but don’t “tread water” well? I can manage my schedule, go teach, be a kid chauffeur, do a Bible study, get a workout in, trim 100 finger and toe nails, and swing by my hubby’s work to deliver a forgotten ID, but what about when my feet can’t touch? What about when I’m taken out into deeper waters?
Only seconds separate strength from weakness in our day-to-day.
One minute all is on track. The next it’s train wreck city. And I’m trying to keep myself up, relying on my habits, expectations I put on myself, schedule requirements, commitments, etc. I find it hard in those moments to say, “help!” Instead, I feel, feel, feel! And it’s oppressive. The pressure to stay above it all mounts so quickly!
I appreciate the friends I have who send me texts throughout the day with the word “Help!” and “Marriage Crisis!” and things like that. For one, it prompts me to be vulnerable and share with others when I’m in a moment too. Asking for help doesn’t end with the call for it either. Like the lifeguard who jumps in to the distress call or distress motions, our friends too can help in those times; it just helps to ask!
Next up is action on that distress. I am tempted often to ONLY offer solutions to everyone’s problem, though that doesn’t mean offering advice is wrong. In fact, I love it when friends share ideas on how to resolve the funnels of chaos I get myself into. But there is something that transcends all the cacophony, delivering calm even as the crazy spins, and that thing is prayer.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16b ESV
I admit I don’t regularly think of prayer when I’m “treading water” in a moment. But I’ve started to see that the practice of asking for help, the practice of looking to someone who’s been there before, and the process of simply saying out loud that I’m overwhelmed prompts prayer. Prayer doesn’t guarantee a change of circumstances but it does strengthen me. It lifts the burden, the pressure, the oppression that weighs me down.
Like when our lifeguarding instructors would say, “drop the brick!” praying helps me with that weight by helping me to push off whatever spirit of oppression I’m holding (or is holding me) and asking what it is I am supposed to be learning, hearing, seeing, doing, etc.
Do you ever feel like you’re treading water? Have you asked for help? Have you tried prayer?
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG