Staying afloat, learning to swim…

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Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.  Drowning in responsibilities of day-to-day life…. swallowed up by the demands of my kids (“MOMMY!  I need…!” “MOMMY! Can I have…?”  “MOMMMMM!!!! Can you take me to…?”).  Or drowning in sadness over the absolute disparity among peers over this stance or that in both religion and politics and the anger that comes from just a difference in opinion. Or drowning in frustration that things I had hoped would happen by now just haven’t and it doesn’t look like they ever will.

Have you ever felt like that?  Sometimes we can make light of our drowning. We get together with friends and talk about our “drowning” moments and laugh about them over a coffee (or three).  Somehow this makes our woes much more tolerable. Thank goodness for friends.

But then there are times when joking doesn’t help; when I feel like I’m being pulled under by a riptide.  Like I’m trying to tread water to stay afloat but instead of being thrown a life vest I keep getting handed anvils.  The weight just seems too much.

But there’s a “thing” about drowning.  Have you ever noticed that when a person is sinking they look up?  It’s counter-intuitive to stick one’s face in water.  When a person is drowning, they do all they can to breathe.  They tip their heads back and reach their lips up for air, gasping for that which they know for certainty will keep them alive.

When I feel like I’m struggling to metaphorically “stay afloat”, if I want to “live”, I cannot look down.  Down is dark.  It is depressing.  It is filled with self-pity. There is no hope in looking down.

But if I look up…

Oh how sweet it is when I look up.  When I take my focus off of my “woes” and look to heaven.  When I trust that the God of the universe is looking down on me and everyone else, carefully working out His will (even though we often try to circumvent His plan), I can catch my breath.

People often joke about the miracle of Jesus walking on water, found in the book of Matthew.  The story goes like this:

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (This guy is God.  He can do this kind of stuff)26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, why did you doubt?

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Oh me of little faith.  WHY DO I DOUBT?!

Why do I not think that Jesus can rescue me? Because when I take my eyes off Him, my perspective changes.

When I am focused on Jesus, placing my confidence in Him, like Peter did when he did something crazy and stepped OUT of a solid, sturdy boat and onto LIQUID WATER, there is NOTHING TO FEAR.

But when I look around at the winds and the storms all around me, taking my focus off of the source of my strength, I will drown.  I lose my way.  I can’t see which direction I’m going or understand why nothing is going as it should.

So when I get discouraged and overwhelmed; when my heart is aching from age-old hurts or even when I’m just super-frustrated that I’m wiping the crumbs of the floor for the umpteenth time in a 20-minute time-span, I need to recognize that I have taken my eyes off of Jesus.  I need to pause, look up, and invite my God into my moment and breathe Him in.

Jesus says to us, “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I’m not saying that our trials and woes will disappear when we focus on Jesus.  They’ll still be there.  But we won’t be overpowered by them.  Jesus doesn’t just scoop us out of the water (our troubles) and send us on our way, He keeps us close, instructing us, encouraging us to trust that keeping our eyes on Him will bring us life.  Best swim instructor ever.

I’m weak.  I fail every day.  I yell.  I lock myself in my bathroom and turn on my hairdryer so I don’t have to listen to my kids fight (conflict avoidance isn’t the best, but, like I’ve shared, I’m not perfect).  I grieve.

But the great news is this: Jesus’ power works best when I am this way.  And His power works just the same for YOU. HALLELUJAH!

How about you?  What do you do when you feel overwhelmed and burdened?  If you haven’t tried it already, really and truly, LOOK UP.  The view is amazing.

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