Learning to swim . . .

I remember beginning swimming lessons at Offutt air force base in Omaha. I was between kindergarten and first grade. I was scared to death! Little did I know that swimming would become one of the things I like best to do.

I have been realizing how many people in my life have been just as big a deal as learning to swim was for me. I experience a new person as that kind of strange environment that water is to one who is used to air and land . . . and learning to navigate in the new environment is a challenge, as is learning to feel safe and comfortable, and even to eventually enjoy the strange new environment. A person who is very different from me is one of God's best tools to pull me out of my own boxes and expose me to the bigger world that He wants me to learn and enjoy.

My favorite book that I read this year was a book called The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life by David F. Ford. He talks about how God shapes us by all the "overwhelmings" of life, and that being overwhelmed by a new friend or a vocation or all of the other things that we feel powerless to resist is what living is all about. It is there that we find joy and purpose and God and even ourselves.

So I am at the second half of my process with one friend these days . . . getting past the fear and frustration and discomfort of otherness and even learning to swim in it. Eventually I will become as comfortable with the different world that I experience in this friend as I am now in water. And, just like in water, flailing around and looking for the familiar supports from most of my life was the first step, which failed miserably! No wonder my strong desire for a while was just to stay away . . . but God has other plans than to let any of us live "safe" lives that protect us from being overwhelmed by His otherness as we can only experience it through the people that He calls us to know and love.

So I am getting to anticipate the end of this "beginning to swim" class and look forward to something that will be enjoyable forever, but also understand that this is life. God brings us to the edge of a new world that we don't have any tools to deal with, and lets us flail around in the safety of His love and His instruction until we finally attain basic skill and then mastery and then enjoyment . . . only to go on to the next new world. He calls us to keep exploring and keep growing and keep loving, in fresh ways and in the old ways too.

And the constant that I am learning to trust in it all is . . . HIM!


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