Kids were screaming, and chlorine stung my eyes. I stood barefooted on the edge of the pool. The floaties on my arms felt tight, and my pink goggles dug into my eye sockets.
I looked at Dad. He was standing chest-deep in the pool with his arms outstretched, grinning and encouraging me to jump. I hesitated. It was scary. But I trusted him to catch me, so eventually...
And in that split second, something changed.
The moment my little feet left the edge - Dad took a step back.
He was still smiling, still stretching out his arms, but he was making it harder for me to reach him.
I splashed and spluttered towards him, and he took another step back. The closer I got, the further he’d move away. I started to get scared that I’d never catch up, and that maybe his arms wouldn’t be there for me if I went under.
God brought this memory to my mind two years ago.
Of course, the walking-backwards-while-your-kid-doggy paddles-towards-you is a classic parenting move. At least, I assume so. (Maybe it’s an Aussie thing?!) I have absolutely nothing against my Dad for using that technique on me, and hey, I learned to be a confident swimmer at a pretty young age.
But the image and the memory was one that God showed me as an example of the way I saw my relationship with him. With God. As I thought about it, and pictured where I was at with God, that’s exactly what I saw: Me being afraid to jump. God calling to me. His mischievous grin as he pulled away when I needed him most. ‘Tricked you’, his eyes would tease.
I realised that I didn’t trust God. I didn’t trust him to stay where he said he’d be. I didn’t trust him to catch me. I saw our relationship like a game - me trying desperately to get to him, and God being nonchalant and distant and always just out of reach.
I didn’t feel safe with him.
After showing me that image, God whispered to me in the stillness:
“Darling, I don’t pull away from you. I step closer. If I ask you to trust me, I mean it. When I ask you to jump, I’m not going anywhere. I don’t test you like that. I encourage you out of your comfort zone, yes. But I don’t trick you. When you’re ready to take the step, I’m right here.”
It was such a simple image, but so powerful. Hearing those words that day reshaped the way I saw my relationship with my Heavenly Papa.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so afraid to step out. My trust grew. And with each jump off the edge of the pool, I learned that it was true. God doesn’t pull back. He waits, patiently. Ready to catch.
If we’re afraid to jump and we need him to step closer - if we need him so close that we can feel his hands under ours - he’ll do that. Heck, he’ll even lead us gently down the pool steps in the shallow end if that’s where we’re at.
Stepping off the pool edge doesn’t seem quite so scary anymore. I still get nervous to jump, but now I know - Papa will catch me.
And he does.
Every. Flipping. Time.
[The photo was taken of me and Dad a few weeks ago, by one of my parents' wonderful friends in NZ.]