In Deep

Hands reaching above waterZak and I talk. He presented a beautiful two-part analogy that I would like to share with you. I have up days and days not so much. My heart is heavy right now – there are people who hurt so bad that they can’t see past their emotion and there seems to be nothing that anyone can do for them that will ever make them happy. Flame on! But maybe Zak’s story will help. It completely applies to situations that we often find ourselves in.

First part.

Remember back when you took swimming lessons at the local pool when you were growing up? I do. I took lessons in a very large “T” shaped pool. The top of the “T” was the shallower ends of the pool where the swim lanes were, where the swimming lessons for newbies were held, and where it was pretty easy to touch the bottom. During summer swims, this is where most of the people would spend their time splashing and cavorting around. It was a good place to be to swim and cool off in the summer and to take lessons – if something went wrong then all a person would have to do is reach down and would probably find the bottom not too far down. No wonder this was the popular end of the pool.

The problem with advancing through swimming lessons is that, sooner or later, we had to go to the deep, deep end of the pool. This was the trunk of the “T” at my pool. This part of the pool is where the low and high diving boards were. This is where there were not one but two lifeguards sitting up on their towers watching the few and brave in the deep end. There weren’t people simply paddling around in the deep end. That is not what the deep end was for. Instead, this was the end that we as swimming students would go to with our instructors to learn how to jump, leap, and dive off of the high diving board. The memories of the high dive still gives me shivers. But there was another thing about the deep end. In the shallower parts of the pool, not only could one touch the bottom but one could see the bottom. It was blue with black lanes painted on it. The water looked cool and blue – probably because the light was reflecting off of the bottom of the blue pool back into the water.

But the deep end? Not so. The bottom of the pool dropped off to 15 feet or so. The blue bottom was lost in the amount of water that covered it. One couldn’t see the bottom. In fact, when standing on the high dive, it looked like we were diving into a black hole. I remember the look vividly. Jumping off the high dive was bad enough but to be jumping into the black water was something else, too.

And I remember we never did much swimming in the deep end. We spent time on the diving boards and we learned how to swim deep down in the dark water. We would have to swim down and find the coins that our instructors would throw in.

dependHere is the thing about the first part of this story – many of us never become confident enough to do anything in the deep end other than to hang on to the side or the ladder. We wouldn’t dare venture out in the deep water. We like the comfort of the shallow water – being able to touch the bottom. We like the frolicking and laughing and play. But the deep end? We are scared. And we simply hang to the side of the pool when in the deep end. Fear. Lack of courage to venture into the deep.

Does this sound like something we deal with? Fear of the deep? Desire for the safety of shallow water? Not wanting to be serious about swimming – just dabbling in the water to stay cool? Not wanting to commit to the deeper stuff?

Second part.

When Zak was at OCS in Newport a few years back, his class had to learn water survival skills. And, of course, this involved the deep end of the pool. And, no doubt, there were quite a few of the students who didn’t want anything to do with the deep end. Anyway, the candidates were taught and showed how to survive in water and then they had to jump in the water and demonstrate how to stay alive. Zak told me something that I had never learned in swimming lessons when I was young and out in the deep end of the pool.

Zak told how the swim masters instructed the new water survivalists that one of the first things they needed to do when getting tossed into deep water was to find a mate and latch on to his arm. And the idea is that each person was supposed to latch on to another person such that after a few minutes, everyone would be holding on to someone else. And when you think about it, it is pretty obvious why. Zak explained that the more people who are hooked up together the more buoyant everyone becomes. There isn’t one person who will go down because everyone else is holding him up. But another reason is that if there are high waves or sharks or something that is pulling people apart, by latching on to someone else and hanging on for dear life, no one will get yanked away. Everyone, by hanging on to each other, will keep the other one from drifting or getting pulled away by something. And finally, the group was supposed to encourage each other. Talk it up. Figure it out. Lend assistance. Give instructions.

I like the first part of the story – how we fear the unknown and have a hard time making a commitment to conquer the deep and unknown things in life. We usually prefer to hang on to comfort and safety. But I like the second part, too. When we do get in deep, we need to have buddies around us. We need to care for each other. I need to learn to depend on you and you on me. And in doing this, we will all be ok.

Two are better than one because a good return comes when two work together. If one of them falls, the other can help him up. But who will help the pitiful person who falls down alone? In the same way, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm. But how will the one who sleeps alone stay warm against the night? And if one person is vulnerable to attack, two can drive the attacker away. As the saying goes, “A rope made of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 VOICE)

If life gets deep – and it will – you and I need to know that even with dark water beneath us, we can be safe if we will take care of each other.

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