"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Diving into Fear or Faith?

Maddie’s feet, frozen to the diving board, would not budge. Shoulders hunched and arms tense, fear fixed her body in one place, immovable. Teammates yelled encouragement, “You can do it, Maddie. You got this!” Their words couldn’t penetrate through the fear gripping her like a vise. She attempted to move her feet, walking two steps forward and then reversed, changing her mind. What if...?
Minutes earlier Maddie attempted her first reverse dive without the belt and cables attached. She ran off the board, kicked her feet into the air, hurling herself backward into the reverse position only to slam her back on top of the water. The sound reverberated through the building as I spontaneously groaned. The lifeguard looked up at me, the groaner from the bleachers. Body jutting forward in anticipation, I held my breath waiting for Maddie to climb out of the water. Holding back tears, she stood before her coach while he asked if she was okay. Maddie grimly nodded without speaking, tears threatening to break loose. She determined to be brave even though her back throbbed in pain. Coach Will directed her back to the diving board to reattempt the dive. Slowly, glumly, she padded her feet forward, letting the other divers cut in front of her several times before the coach caught on.
“Ok, Maddie. You have to go. You can do this.”
We waited. And waited. And waited. One teammate pulled her aside and gave her a pep talk. The coach hooked her up to the cable again for a quick security dive. After removing the cable, she mounted the board, stared at the water and then at the sky where her feet were supposed to kick. Instead of performing the dive, she straight jumped into the water from the board. Another distraction. Minutes passed of standing on the diving board, staring at the water and sky again, willing her legs kicking high into the air, hands and face into the water and not her back on top of it! Minutes ticked into an hour.  Practice was an hour over, yet Maddie’s teammates hung around to offer words of encouragement. Still, no dive. Fear wrapped around her mind like a boa constrictor, and it wouldn’t let go. Finally, the coach released Maddie from repeating the dive until the next practice when she’d face that board, that dive and that fear again.
The coach desperately desired that Maddie nail that dive successfully before she left practice. He didn’t want her to wait so she could stew and fret and worry. He knew that if Maddie went home having performed her reverse dive, her confidence would build instead of her fear. Instead, her fears still loom like monsters in the dark until the next practice.
Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. Maddie told me later that her mind told her to take that dive, but her body wouldn’t move. The threat of her 60 pound body smacking the water chained her to the board like a prisoner.  What will break that chain of fear holding her fast?
Fear can be healthy when it cautions to be careful around a dangerous situation. We teach our children to fear walking in front of cars on a busy street. Be careful and always look both ways, we tell them. When we encounter an animal, we maintain distance until we know it’s safe. Many of us won’t venture into a dangerous part of a big city by ourselves after dark. Fear causes us to take extra precautions when we travel to a foreign country. Fear can keep us alive!
On the other hand, fear has the power to keep us from experiencing all that God has for us. We don’t fly in airplanes because they might crash. We don’t let our children out of our control because something bad might happen. We shy away from deepening friendships because we might get hurt. Our fears range from the seemingly reasonable to the extremely irrational.  We are each uniquely created. Both our environments and our personalities play roles in our fears. Some of us were born with a predisposition for certain fears and others developed fears at a young age due to circumstances. Some fears grew out of painful situations, and others seem silly. No matter what our fears may be, we need to determine whether they are keeping us stuck in a holding pattern like an airplane that must keep circling the sky before it can land. What might we experience if we replace that fear with faith? What are we missing because we are too scared, like Maddie glued to the diving board?
God may or may not magically take away our fears. He desires us to work through them, replacing fear with faith. Every “what if” that deters us from experiencing all that God has planned for us, we ought to take captive. We need to keep taking steps of faith down the diving board, flinging our feet up into the air, relying on Him to catch us as we soar through the air. Then, we can enjoy the splash of hands and face, not back, diving deep into the life-giving water that fuels our faith instead of our fear.
What fear do you need to entrust to God? 

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