For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV
When I was ten years old, my Mom enrolled me in swimming lessons. I don’t remember much of that summer except the thing that changed my relationship to deep bodies of water.
One day, while I was learning to dive into the deep end, the instructor clipped my shin on the diving board as he threw me into the water. On that day, I went straight to the bottom of the pool and stayed longer than expected. However, I managed to fight through the pain and make my way back up to the surface. Once my instructor checked me over for broken bones, he told me to get right back up on the diving board and do it again. I finished the day strong and even though she didn’t say it, I could feel that Mom was proud of my accomplishment.
The next day I went back to swimming class and was ready to tackle the next set of lessons. That day, we would be diving on our own. As I waited my turn, I decided to dip into the water and look at the deepness of the water. I don’t know why I did it, but I wish I never had. Seeing the deep sea of the endless blue of the 12-foot end of the pool filled me with fear. Even though I had dived into that water repeatedly the day before, even with an injury, seeing where I would be landing caused an unexplainable fear. That fear stuck with me during my turn to dive, and I clammed up and had one of my worst days in swimming. The instructor was confused as well as my Mom. I was disappointed but was too embarrassed to tell them what happened.
I never dived again, and my fear of deep water permeated my life until I decided to face my fear in preparation for a family cruise to the Caribbean. I took swimming lessons and started diving again. When the time came to go snorkeling, I decided to join my cousin in the ultimate test to face my fear of deep water.
To go snorkeling, we were taken via a banana boat offshore. As I sat on the back of the banana boat, I fell into the ocean. Fear caused me to grip onto the slippery banana boat as the speed boat carried us along. It took what seemed like forever for my cousin and the rest of the people on the banana boat to get the crew to stop the speedboat. By that time, I knew that I would never go back into the ocean ever again. This time, I chose to let the fear envelop me and I have never been back in deep water again.
In fact, that fear has permeated my relationship to any water that I feel is dangerous, including driving in heavy rain. Even though I am in a car, the same fear that I felt as a child and in that ocean comes as I creep along in my car to get to a destination. There have even been times that I have pulled over to wait out storms.
Fast forward today. I wish that I had gone snorkeling that day. I wish that I had faced my fear like times before. I don’t know what made that time in the Caribbean different. I don’t know why I couldn’t do what I did when I was younger when I continued diving off that board after being injured. I don’t know why seeing the deep water was the thing that made me so afraid the next day in swimming class. The fact of the matter is, I never drowned in any of those instances, including after my fall into the ocean. The fact is, I have always made it safely to my destinations in heavy rain. I am no psychologist, but I suspect, it has something to do with trust and faith.
On the first day of diving lessons, the instructor saw my fear and talked me through it. He kept telling me that I was a strong swimmer and that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. He said that he would come to get me if I couldn’t make it up to the top.
The next day, when I looked at the bottom of the pool and became afraid, I kept that fear to myself; so, my instructor couldn’t help me. Years later in adult swimming class, I told my instructor my story and he also assured me that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I trusted his expertise and experience just like I did with my childhood swim instructor.
In the Caribbean, I trusted no one. My fellow vacationers help keep me safe by yelling until they got the attention of the crew. I didn’t trust them on the way back and decided to sit in the speedboat. My cousin who knew my history with deep water tried to get me to face my fear by going snorkeling anyway. I didn’t trust her reassurance. I didn’t trust the crew who had the expertise and experience to keep me safe. In my daily life, as I drive through heavy rain at a snail’s pace, I realize that I trust no one, not even my 30 years of driving experience. I have allowed my fear of deep water to manifest into a fear of any water that seems more powerful than me.
Yet, my fear makes no sense to God. 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
As a writer and actress, I face fear every time I sit before the page and stand on the stage. Every time I stand in a pulpit to preach or before an audience to teach Bible study, I do it in spite of my fear. The fear never goes away, I do it anyway because I have learned to trust God in those instances.
Reflecting on my experience with fear of water, if I apply this truth, I know that the one that I need to trust in God. While trained divers and swimmers are great, and my driving experience is great, the only way I can really face my fear is to face my fear internally. I must trust the Holy Spirit to give me the wisdom to swim in deep waters and the wisdom to drive safely in heavy rains.
Trusting God is the only way to embrace a life of fearless living.
Now, it’s your turn…
Prompt for Thought: What fear do you need to face with God’s help? What would happen to that fear if you imagined Jesus being with you while you faced that fear? Read the story of Peter walking on water. What does his story say about fear?
Prayer for the Journey: God, we are mere mortals who fear all kinds of things. Help us in our unbelief. Help us to see you instead of the thing of which we are afraid. Help us to feel your presence instead of the fear. Help us to have faith and trust in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.