Jumping into the Deep End
It is summer. And summers when I was growing up meant time at Green Tree, a local community pool. My recollection of what that pool actually looked like is a little fuzzy. Oddly enough, however, I sometimes dream about that pool. My dream image may not be totally accurate because Green Tree is gigantic in my dreams – the pool and the space surrounding it. In actuality, it probably was not as big as I remember it. Last time I was there, however, I was small so maybe from a child’s perspective it was huge.
I have clear memories of my dad swimming with us in that pool. He would sometimes pretend to be a shark, and as we stood in the pool, he would swim up to us under the water to scare us. He also was really good at squirting water out of his fist. He’d clench his fist over and over just under the surface of the water and we’d dash back to avoid the squirts climbing higher and higher from its center.
For some reason, however, my most vivid memories of that pool involved swimming lessons. I remember the first day I was going to learn to swim. I felt so intimidated to enter into a class with a teacher I didn’t know. I was super-young, and I was not used to being away from my family (even if my mom was just under the shade a few feet away from the pool). The first day of lessons, I refused to go anywhere near the pool. My mom bribed me saying I could keep on the t-shirt I liked over my bathing suit, but the instructor disagreed saying it was dangerous. If I was to go into the pool, I had to give the shirt to my mom. I cried and cried, and I don’t even recall if I made it into the pool that first day. After that first day, however, I know I eventually got in because I have memories of floating on my back with the instructor helping me figure out how to stay afloat and attempting to learn how to hold my breath under the water. The last thing I recall about swimming lessons was learning how to jump off the diving board.
In my memory, I can see myself standing on that diving board terrified and shaking too much to go anywhere near the end of it. I can also see the instructor floating in the water near the ladder waiting for me. I can hear her call out to me “Jump, Gretchen, jump.” And I can feel my head shaking along with my legs “No!” Eventually, she convinces me to venture to the end of the board, but I am still afraid to jump. I know, however, that I have to (she doesn’t seem like she’s gonna give up anytime soon). So, at the last minute, I turn to the side and jump a couple feet from her arms. The instructor is not happy – something about it being dangerous, blah blah blah. But for me, it was the best I could do in that moment. I was terrified, but I knew I needed to face my fears… so I jumped sideways. It was a gentle start, a cautious step into diving straight into something that scared me.
St. Ignatius of Loyola said that said “God’s love calls us to move beyond fear. We ask God for the courage to abandon ourselves unreservedly, so that we might be molded by God’s grace, even as we cannot see where that path may lead us.” Standing on that diving board, staring into the water below, I was not certain as to what would happen. I was prepared, however, to take that leap. I had taken all the necessary steps with the instructor, after all, from the shallow end all the way to the deep end. I would be able to make it to the side if I jumped straight in… all I needed was a little faith.
May we have the faith today to listen to the movements in our heart, know that God has prepared us well, and jump straight into the person God is calling us to be in this world.