Swimming Sideways

I’m going to share with you an embarrassing story. Like most embarrassing stories, this comes from my bone-headed high school days. “Embarrassing” would unfortunately describe a number of the things I remember from high school, but this story is probably one of my most ridiculous. Like most Juniors in high school, I was a confused, insecure kid desperately looking for an identity and direction for my future. The major decisions had been set long before and instilled in me throughout my childhood­—do well in school, go to college, get a nice job. However, as a Junior positioned to start locking in on some of those plans, I realized there were a number of important specifics in those decisions that were still left open. So, I often clung to the thoughts and opinions I valued most, those of my peers and friends. This led me down a number of paths including partying with my friends, playing with fire, and... being a guitarist in a hardcore rock band. Clearly, these were all things that would help me define my future, right?

During the summer, the band spent most of our time practicing and hanging out at the other guitarist’s house. He had a pool in his backyard, so we often ended up there playing the dumb games high school boys think up when they are left alone with too little to do. One game revolved around spinning in circles on the edge of the pool and then jumping into the deep end. You see, when you jump into a pool while dizzy, you have absolutely no concept of which way is up. If you stay still, you’ll float to the top and break the surface. While I wouldn’t recommend trying this, it definitely is a unique sensation.

After jumping in a number of times, I wanted to make it a bit more challenging. So, on my next jump, I tried to swim to the surface. I began pulling myself through the water waiting for my fingers to break through the surface, but they didn’t. I started to swim harder as I began wanting to take a breath. The dizziness had worn off, but I had no concept of which direction I was headed. I soon turned to all out panic, grasping at the water. I was out of air and took a gulp or two. Finally, my pinky just popped out of the water, and I pulled myself up for relief. I stood up, now in the shallow end, and looked at my friends surrounding the pool watching me. I asked what happened, and they told me that I had been swimming just a few inches below the surface the whole time.

I know this is a silly story, but I’ve thought about it often in relation to my faith and relationships. There are a couple of reminders that keep coming back to me, so please bear with the great deal of metaphor that’s about to come your way.

The first reminder is that while we are powerless on our own, God can redeem us at any point. The surface of the water could be infinitely large, but no matter how hard we struggle, if we aren’t going in the right direction, we won’t make it. The slightest incorrect angle now will create a larger and larger distance over time. The Bible points to this often, but one of my favorite examples is in Proverbs. Proverbs 28:26 says,

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (ESV).

The good news is that God is good and can use us and redeem us in any situation.

We could be swimming sideways for ages, but there is still safety directly overhead. Our path can weave and dive, but we are always under the span of the Lord. When we stop relying on our own strength and trust in the Lord, he will pull us up.

The other reminder is that we need to look out for our brothers and sisters. When I had finally come up for air, I was a little perplexed as to why my friends hadn’t helped me. I felt like it was obvious that I was struggling, and they had a clear view of the situation. I would have greatly appreciated someone helping me change my path. If we are part of a loving church community, we can’t let one another drown. Acts 20:28 says,

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (ESV).

God has made himself known to us through Christ so that we don’t have to be dizzy in the deep end. We can know where the surface is and we can help each other find it.

At some point in our lives, we are all thrown dizzy into the deep end. While I'm no longer an insecure, bone-headed high schooler, I'm very aware of how easy it is to get slightly off track and start sinking. I encourage you to pause often and ask God for direction. Relying on our own strength and wisdom can only pull us further from God’s grace. I also encourage you to look out for your community and have the courage to jump in after each other. Through the Holy Spirit, we have been made overseers of the church, so let’s continually watch over each other.


Steve has been a part of the Redemption for the last four years and moved to the Sedgefield neighborhood just about two years ago. He and his wife, Haley, currently lead the Sedgefield Community Group. They have loved seeing God move at Redemption and in their lives as seasons have changed for them as a couple and for Redemption as a church.