On “60 Minutes” the other night, they featured a story about “extreme divers” at a lagoon on an isolated island in the Caribbean. These are folks who push physical and psychological boundaries to excess. Their goal is to see how deep they can dive using just their lungs…and maybe a big flipper, allowing them to go even deeper.
One guy went over 400 feet deep and was underwater for 4½ minutes. It would have been a world record, but he forgot to do the post-dive sequence of removing his goggles, saying “I’m OK,” and giving a thumbs-up. Mental agility is a requirement for the record books—you must prove that after such a grueling activity, you can still remember the correct order of these seemingly easy tasks. But he got the order wrong.
Confession time. When I was small, we lived in a little town ten miles from a swimming pool. For whatever reason, we never went swimming. And sometime during my elementary years, a boy my age drowned in the nearby Wapsipinicon River.
It came time for us to take swimming lessons. They were always two weeks long, and always in early June just after school had been dismissed for the summer. Oh yeah…the pool was not just unheated, it was outside. On chilly mornings we looked like plucked chickens.
Our first lesson? Hold our breath and put our face in the water for 30 seconds. But the memory of the drowning boy somehow consumed me; I became so convinced of my own drowning that I couldn’t do it. It took me two summers to overcome my paranoia. Never mind that Red Cross certified instructors—some breasted and attractive—were teaching us. Never mind that it would have been the last place in Buchanan County I would have drowned.
What a dork.
But this brings to mind the destructive thoughts that grip us and keep us paralyzed from doing what we really want to do. What is it that conditions us to be so fearful? Think of all the activities that await us; stuff we can venture forward and try to make our lives more adventurous, more colorful, and more interesting. Stuff to make life…lively!
Don’t be so consumed by over-imagined fear that you can’t stick your face in the water.
There’s another kind of pool.
Sometimes, we jump headlong into that inky lagoon within ourselves—and dive dangerously deep. Our soul-lungs bursting and our minds confused, we come perilously close to drowning.
Unfortunately, setbacks and disappointments and loss are part of life. It’s natural that we all go to that dark pool occasionally. The key is remembering to resurface.
The Bible tells us to fear not hundreds of times.
Yet we cling to fear like a life preserver, instead of recognizing it as a bag of rocks. We choose to sleep with the fishes.
That can not only paralyze us, but be downright embarrassing–even decades after swimming lessons are over.