The mama stands a few feet away from her son in the pool. She has on sunglasses and her hair piled high on her head and so badly wants him to be able to swim. He is decked out in floaties and sunscreen and though his confidence was high on land, fear grips him now. She backs up a few paces and holds her arms out lovingly, encouraging him to paddle over to her. When he gets close, she backs up and he paddles a little further. She's helping him by changing the destination, so that he never quite arrives, but he does learn to swim on his own. Does it sound familiar?
In the quiet spaces of the last year, I've found myself drawn to this image time and again. I'm the scared, swimming child and my identity - the goal I'm swimming towards. I'll never forget the few weeks just before I had Elias almost seven years ago. I was uncomfortable physically with my heaving belly and sore back but there was an aching in my soul that was louder and more defined than any bodily hurt. I was on the cusp of being a mom and having that identity to root myself to something and being so close and not close enough was making me crazy. I needed motherhood to define my hours and give my hands something to do. I needed motherhood to help me find my place in the church. I even felt like I needed a baby to explain my body that I no longer understood.
Over the years, I've "needed" the next thing time and again. I needed to work outside the home to feel purpose, then I needed to come home from work to feel like I fit in. I needed to exercise to feel young and fresh and I needed to bake more to feel domestic. I needed to have a lovely home, but it needed to be decorated in a thrifty way to show I wasn't frivolous with money. My needs were rarely expressed by others, but always loudly perceived in my heart. I'd swim as heartily as I could just to find that the arms that were supposed to catch me had moved once again.
I was talking to a wise new friend this week, a faithful woman who welcomed me into her home and life without a second thought. As I watched her work in her kitchen and work in her business and talk with the women in her church, the only way I could describe her to Nick is that she is so settled. She doesn't seem to be striving or grasping or flailing about in the slightest. I was describing my life and this overwhelming sense of constantly feeling as if I'm never measuring up, never meeting ALL the needs, and always choosing to let someone down. I instinctively said, "Maybe I need to think about it, think about what to give up, or how to restructure, or think through how the Lord might want to change me in this". Without much thought and WITH much love she replied, "Maybe you need to stop thinking. Maybe you need to ask the Lord to bypass your brain and get at your heart".
And a few days later I stood in worship just begging the Lord. Bypass my brain, get to my heart. Bypass my brain, get to my heart. Help me see the end goal, help me to finally swim to exactly where you want me, help me to be who you made me to be. And the bottom dropped out and the water all drained and I saw the truth. It was never my Father standing a few feet before me, changing the end goal and leaving me exhausted. He wasn't the one backing up while I flailed and floundered and choked on water. That scenario was a creation of the enemy of my heart, one that was propelled and exacerbated by ME.
He did not make me only to make me into something else that He could use.
My Father created me for His glory, for the good of His Kingdom, exactly as I am.
I am in need of nothing but Him.
I am His daughter.
I am safe in His arms.