My dad scuba dived and it looked like lots of fun, but at thirteen, lots of things looked fun to me. I also wanted to skydive, but my parents put all four feet down on that idea. They relented on the lesser of two evils and allowed me to take the YMCA’s two-night-a-week scuba diving lessons, provided my grades didn’t suffer. Since I was the youngest in the class, my dad sat through the course with me. There was a great deal of book stuff to learn, but the time in the pool was what I liked best. We learned how all the equipment worked, how to take care of it and what to use when. We learned how to jump in with those heavy tanks on our backs without knocking ourselves out cold and it didn’t take long to learn we should walk backward while wearing our flippers.
As we neared the end of our lessons, the instructor began talking about “the test”. I felt sure there would be a written test. After all, no teacher in their right mind spends such a large amount of time on a subject without inflicting some kind of suffering at the end. My dad had also explained that if I passed the written test I would get to go to Florida for an “open-water check out”. All I heard was “Florida” and “water” and I was motivated to pass the test! But, I didn’t think about there being a “pool test”.
I discovered there are many things that can go wrong when diving; learning how to handle those makes good use of time. To measure our capabilities, the pool test consisted of two teacher-assistants circling beneath the low dive as we took turns stepping into the pool. Their job was to present us with as many problems as possible to see how well we coped. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, was to reach the opposite end of the pool safely. The hired hands tried to take off masks, turn off air supplies, pull out mouthpieces and any other mischievous things they could think of to keep us from getting to the other end of the pool.
The night of the big test we all suited up and the instructor asked who wanted to go first. In a classroom setting I always wanted to go first to get the assignment over with, but my dad leaned over and whispered, “Why don’t you just watch a few others go first, so you’ll know what to expect.” For once I listened. I watched the macho guys jump in and head straight for those two big galoots ready for a wrestling match. The more I watched, the more a plan began to form in my mind. The line dwindled and it was finally my turn. I was glad the two in the water were tired from being pester pots. I backed to the end of the board, lowered my mask and held it as I jumped in. Once in the water, I whirled around and saw two images near the surface. I dove deep and swam as fast as I could to the other end. I knew I couldn’t outwrestle them. My only chance to get to the other end safely was to swim faster than them. Just as I got to the finish line one of them managed to get my mask off, but I was already safe. When my ears came out of the water all I heard was thunderous cheering. My instructor was laughing his head off. He said he’d never had anybody try to outrun those guys in the water. Then he said something about the best offense being a good defense. All I know is that he must not have ever had anybody as scared to fight those guys as me.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes that old galoot, Satan, paralyzes me with fear. I see him lurking and I begin to back away from my test. I make excuses for not finishing what the Master Teacher laid out before me. I see how others wrestle with their problems on their own and sink into despair, but then … I take the time to just be quiet and listen to what God whispers in my ear and a plan begins to formulate. I see others throughout the Bible who have faced their giants, withstood being swallowed, overcome insurmountable odds and outlasted persecution. I pray for God to make my path straight and clear and He always does – eventually. Somehow, he always knows just how much I can stand and how long I can go before I get totally discouraged. I have learned that it’s those times of pushing hard through the Word and leaning on Him that give me more and more strength with every test. Each exercise in trust strengthens my faith muscles even more. Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds me of my scuba lessons and teaches me how to outsmart Satan. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Satan is circling in your waters just waiting for a good wrestling match, but Jesus is waiting for you at the end of the pool. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and swim confidently, my friend. Swim confidently and very fast!
By the way, today’s my dad’s birthday. So, Happy Birthday, Daddy!