I love being near the water. Wherever we have lived in the States, we have always found ourselves drawn to the nearby lake or ocean. Even a nice river works. There’s just something about being near water that seems to make my heart calm.
This summer at Delta we have had access to the lake whenever we want it. For awhile we were quite busy, but the last weeks have been spent down on the lake for a couple hours most evenings. We mostly paddle board and swim. Last time we were here in the Summer I came down a couple times to try to paddle board and never ended up standing. I was the only one in my group who could never get up, and the person leading the class didn’t make me feel very confident. I resorted to sitting on the board and using it like a kayak – which I LOVE, so it was not a big deal, but it frustrated me that I couldn’t do it the way it was meant to be done!
This year when my sister-in-law came in from Idaho and suggested paddle boarding I resigned myself to sitting and cruising along like a kayak. After a couple hours of watching everyone else stand up I decided to throw my bruised pride to the side and try again. With much encouragement and some not so beautiful pictures taken to prove it happened, I finally stood up! For about 2.1 seconds – but hey, I’ll take it!
I had bruises all the way up my legs the next day, but since then we have been going almost every evening and each night gets better. Last night I not only stayed up, but actually paddled around for a good 10 minutes without falling in. And when I was tired, I was able to sit rather than plop in the water. It still doesn’t look so graceful, but I am loving it.
I noticed that the more I tried, the braver RJ got. Like me, RJ struggles a lot with anxiety. The “what ifs” and fear often take over his heart, and usually veer toward believing the worst possible scenario. However, the first day RJ decided to sit on my board. There were a few panicked tears and I promised not to go anywhere he wasn’t ready to go. He got on and we sat as we paddled in the shallow end a bit. Then he agreed to go in the deep end – but only in the swim area. This doesn’t make sense because deep is deep no matter where the ropes in the are or not, but we tend to hold on to control as much as possible in our fear! Finally he felt ready to paddle out to the others. We had a great time together and I was filled with joy that he trusted me and trusted himself enough to let go and have some fun.
Last night he got on his own board and sat and paddled out to the dock (where it is definitely over his head!) I didn’t want to put any fear in his head, but I did want him to understand how to react if he fell in. He had a lifejacket on and I told him if he fell to hold his breath and NOT panic, and the life jacket would bring him back to the top really quickly. He looked unsure, but continued to go to places over his head. This is a huge victory for RJ.
As I have been praying to God about the questions in my heart and mind, the emotions roiling around inside, and the fears I have been experiencing recently I wanted him to promise me he wouldn’t take me anywhere I wasn’t ready for. I believe that God often nudges me into areas that I would avoid on my own. That doesn’t mean he always waits for my fear to leave, but he doesn’t throw me in the deep end and watch as I flounder and panic. Sometimes it feels that way in the moment. But just as I would NEVER do that to RJ, I know how much more perfectly God loves me. Sometimes I insist on staying in the roped area – it feels somehow safer and more familiar. The truth is he is holding me up with or without the ropes there. I imagine that in those times of my fear he reacts the same way I did to RJ – He calmly takes my hand, tells me too look in his eyes, asks me to trust him, and walks alongside me the whole way. He tells me he loves me and doesn’t want me to miss out on something good and amazing because I am scared. He laughs and claps and feels so much joy when I make even the smallest step away from fear. And when the bruises come because it feels too much or I’ve fallen a million times, he doesn’t make me feel stupid or like a failure. He stays steady and reminds me he is the one who calms the waves with word.
I have needed this summer here in ways I didn’t know and couldn’t have expressed. As we enjoy our last few nights here this summer, I will hang on to this gift.