When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...
“Watch this one.” Sherry dove under the water. Her feet appeared perfectly upright. Again, a perfect handstand.
Missy’s attempts were not as good as her older sister’s. Her body would drift to one side and her legs flopped all over the place. Just getting her hands to stay put on the bottom of the pool was hard enough. She climbed out and sat on the side of the pool with her legs dangling into the water. Her younger brother Ralphy had the same trouble but seemed to be more motivated.
Missy was distracted. She couldn’t stop looking at the kids who were jumping off the high dive. From the ground it looked fun and exhilarating. They would come out of the water chatting about how great the jump was. Most seemed a bit older than she was. Maybe they were Sherry’s age, or even older. The excitement of it all attracted Missy’s attention.
Missy looked over her shoulder at her mom getting Candy ready to get in the water. “Mom, can I jump?”
Without looking up Missy’s mom said, “Yes.”
Missy was shocked. She didn’t think her mom would let her jump off the high dive. Her whole body felt a rush of adrenaline as she walked towards the deep end. Missy walked right past the low dive line and got into the high dive line right behind a big boy with curly red hair.
As she waited Missy noticed another shorter boy further up in the line. When it was his turn he climbed all the way up, walked out to the edge and then stopped. Everyone watched and waited. Other kids started shouting for him to jump. He just stayed stiff.
A tall girl behind Missy spoke up, “Don’t wait, just jump!” Pretty soon he backed up slowly, got back on the latter and started to climb down. Why would he change his mind? He climbed all the way up there and all he had to do was just jump and enjoy the journey into the water. The climb down took longer than the climb up.
After the little boy walked away the tall girl behind Missy tapped her on the shoulder, “He was too scared and too young. I knew it the moment I saw him start up the latter.” The big boy with curly red hair glanced over his sholder and gave a knowing nod. Some other kids chatted about it too.
Soon it was Missy’s turn. With each step up the latter anticipation grew. About half way up she glanced down to see how far she had climbed and paused. Missy didn’t expect for the ground to look so far off. The view was different from up on the latter.
The tall girl at the bottom of the latter waiting for her turn yelled up to Missy. “Just follow the that boy in front of you. Just keep looking up.” Missy decided to look up as she finished the climb.
Peeking over the top, Missy could see the big boy with curly red hair jump off. Missy focused on the board and walked to the edge. Looking out and around was wonderful. She felt like such a big girl. Missy looked down and her entire body froze. This was a new feeling she was not expecting. The excitement was not gone but added to it was a dose of nervousness and fear. Everyone on the ground looked so small. Her mind started to go places she was not ready for.
“What if I fall the wrong way? What if I don’t jump far enough out and I don’t land in the water? What if I land on my stomach or back? How will it feel?” She hadn’t considered any of those things before her climb.
Missy realized that she had no idea what this experience would really be like. She noticed the big boy’s red hair in the water as he swam to the side of the pool. No one warned her of what it would be like once she got out to the edge. Her mom didn’t seem worried at all when she said that one word; yes. She looked in the direction of her mom for approval, Missy saw her mom staring up at her with less than a comfortable look on her face. Missy stood there and wondered if she had made a wise decision to climb on the high dive board. The other children yelled for her to jump.
“Follow him! You’ll be fine.” She heard the tall girl say.
These kids had been jumping off repeatedly all morning long. Watching them from the ground Missy could see the joy of the experience. Then she thought of the little boy that had turned around and did not experience the joy but instead let fear win. Missy knew she was not like him. She was not too young. She was not too scared. She did not want to climb back down and face the other kids staring at her like they did the little boy. If she retreated she would never feel the joy of the jump. She had studied each jumpers expression as they came out of the water telling their jump story. Missy knew that she wanted to climb out of the pool with the same joy and with a story to tell.
In a fast moment Missy put all thoughts behind her, closed her eyes as tight as they would close and jumped as far out as she could.
Right away she felt the rush in her stomach. Her hands wailed around to stay upright as her body whisked to one side. Missy did not expect the fall to be so fast. She did not expect to hit the water so hard. The landing seemed a little awkward as her body sank way down into the deep end of the pool. It felt fun to let her body drift downward until she realized she needed some air. Right away she started to swim up. When she held her breath she had not made sure there was plenty of air in her lungs. With all her might she swam. Right when she felt like she couldn’t hold her breath for a second longer she came out and gasped. Without time to recover she heard voices screaming at her to move. Missy did not realize that she had to swim to the side quickly to clear a spot for the tall girl. She was not the fastest swimmer but got going and grabbed the side of the pool.
That jump was not at all what she thought it would be. After a moment of recuperating she realized that she was fine. The whirlwind of thoughts and emotions was tremendous. So much happened that she didn’t expect, good and bad. Missy quickly found the ladder and climbed out of the water with her heart pounding and filled with joy. She did it! Missy jumped and survived. Missy did not only recognize the fun parts but was exhilarated at all she had overcome in just a few seconds! It was not a perfect jump but now that Missy knew what to expect she could not wait to try it again.
Climb, jump, splash! Again... and again... and again! Soon she joined in the reactions all the kids had that were standing in line looking at each jump. “Whoa, did you see that one?”
Never did the nervous feeling go away right before she lunged off the board. Every jump was a little different from the one before. “This time I’ll start with a bigger breath... This time I’ll jump straighter... this time I’ll start to swim to the side while I’m still under the water... This time I’ll open my eyes... This time I’ll hold my legs together...”
Later Missy’s mom told her that she couldn’t believe how Missy had just climbed and jumped with no fear, like it was nothing.
“I mean I had no idea that you wanted to jump off that high dive.” Missy’s mom explained, “I though you were going to jump off the side of the pool but no, you walked over there with those older kids and you were not intimidated! I’ve got to admit I was nervous at first, but you just jumped without looking back.”
Missy felt good about it. Maybe Sherry had the best water hand stands but Missy was not afraid to jump off the high dive. Missy could look back at the entire journey as a whole and marvel at how wonderful it was to experience the high dive. She had a story to tell!
As time went by Missy became very thankful for that experience! Thankful that she did not turn around and let fear win. Thankful for the physical experience of jumping without knowing what to expect. Thankful that she passed through the waters, coming out with a testimony of survival. Thankful for her mom, who filled her ears with awe and wonder of what had happened. Thankful for the tall girl that encouraged her to “follow.”
Missy faced many more “high dives” as she grew older. She learned to follow Jesus like He was a boy with curly red hair; going before her to show her the way. Missy stood on many edges, each time she took in a deep breath of God’s presence and his peace. She learned to trust Him when she felt unsure and scared. To let go of the what ifs and just jump, knowing that she would have a story to tell.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”