“I’m not afraid of it, I just don’t trust it.”

I am climbing down the pool steps, explaining to my instructor my relationship to water. I am beginning one-on-one swimming lessons; truth be told, this is something I’ve dreamed of for years and years. Really dreamed–not just wished or planned or wanted to.

I’ve had these recurring dreams where I am in the water, fumbling about. Sometimes there are other people; sometimes I’m alone. Sometimes the water is murky, almost swampy, and sometimes the water is crystal clear. But always I am there, as I would be in real life, struggling for meaningful movement. And then, suddenly, I can swim.

It’s not that I am suddenly going some place or accomplishing fantastical feats. It’s just that in one moment I do not trust the water. And in the next, I do. I move freely, easily. There is no fear. I am exploring, moving, going where I intend to with no obstacles, no resistance. And I am filled with wonder. Not at the water. Not at what I see. Just at the support of the water. The ease of movement. The utter lack of anxiousness.

And then almost invariably, I wake up–and I wake up thinking, “So this is what it feels like when you trust God, when you are free in faith. . .” Or maybe that’s the thought that tells me it’s a dream and causes me to wake up. I don’t know. I also don’t know now if my few attempts at trying to learn–those brief flashes when it works and the water is holding me–are feeding my dreams, or if my dreams are informing me what it must feel like, so I know what I am looking for when I’m in the water. I suspect it is the latter. I am so certain what it should feel like.

And it does, if I ever relax for a few seconds, the way my instructor keeps trying to get me to do. It is almost like slipping into a dream, and if you try too hard, you wake up.

“This is actually a lot easier to learn when you’re a kid,” my instructor explains, shooing several children out of our way and into the deep end. “When you’re older, you spend so much effort trying to analyze every little thing.”

I do. My mind is churning endlessly.

“Also, as a kid, you don’t have all these years and years and years of learning that you can’t. As a kid, you don’t know that you can’t swim. By the time you’re an adult, you’ve had years of this feeling that you just can’t, building up inside of you.”

Yeah. Tell me about it. My mind is split between this conversation, the concentration required to attempt to relax my body and trust the water, my dreams. . .my God.

I slip under the water again. When I fumble, it feels like real life. When things click together, for even an instant, it is a flashback into my dreams.

Somehow, I have to do this. I have to learn how to swim. Because it is a glimpse into a beautiful analogy, an analogy that is not just heard, it is felt, in every fiber of my body. Faith. Hope. Peace. No fear. No effort. Letting go. Trusting. Knowing you will be held up by a force you cannot see, if only you relax.

When the water holds me, I feel like Elisha’s servant.

* * *

I was so scared to start swimming lessons. Not of the water. Scared I couldn’t. Scared I would be taught, and taught and taught and taught, and still the water wouldn’t lift me. I’ve wanted to for so long, but what if it was a dream? What if I couldn’t learn to trust?

I walked in the door, mostly because you have to be on time. My instructor said, “Are you ready?”

I answered, “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

And we went into the water.

Me and someone I don’t even know, yet somehow believe will keep me from harm.

“It’s so frustrating,” I said, “Because this feel like it should be easy.” I feel stupid. I feel illiterate. She shook her head.

“I’ve spent six, eight weeks even just sitting on the stairs with people, helping them with their fear. If you aren’t afraid, you’ve already gotten past the hard part!”

Later, I told her that I knew I hadn’t come properly prepared. But I knew that if I kept waiting until everything was perfect, I would never do it. I had to just come. Stop making excuses and do it. She agreed. “When would work for you next week?” Don’t lose your momentum now.

Want to know what else scares me?

Singing lessons.

I want to, so bad. I can’t explain why–or rather, I think maybe I could, if I used a hundred thousand words. Short of that, all I can say is that “It was midnight, and Paul and Silas were singing.”

But what if I can’t? What if I can’t be taught to sing? What if I try, and they politely tell me I’m a hopeless case? Where do hopeless cases go? Where does one get singing lessons when one is no longer school aged but has no past experience to capitalize upon?

But I have to go and find out. Because. . .


Because swimming is an analogy of the outside, and singing is an analogy of the inside. Because there is a difference between being on the outside of music looking in, and standing in the middle of music and letting it out. Because it is a part of you and always there. Because, though it is words, it is what words cannot be.

2 Responses to Inside

  1. I guess I would make a little distinction. Most of us need to be taught if we are to sing well–but none of us need to be taught to sing. I also would like to be taught to sing well, but that doesn’t keep me from singing now.

    I think the first thing to do is to learn to sing with your heart, and not worry about how “bad” it sounds.

    Don’t let your desire for perfection keep what is inside you from coming out.

  2. Well. . .as long as we’re getting into little distinctions. . . 🙂

    I did say I was intimidated by singing *lessons* not be singing. But I guess I don’t feel like the statement “none of us needs to be taught to sing” is relevant. Hundreds of thousands of people have learned how to swim without being “taught” too, but that doesn’t meant that it is the best for my situation, or that I wouldn’t learn faster or better or easier with a teacher. Having a teacher is not something we need to inherently try to avoid or do without.

    But I do want to sing well, and I want to sing with others–to be able to harmonize and sing different parts in a choir, and sing songs I haven’t heard a million times before.

    Having said that, I would never argue that my desire for perfection messes me up in many ways.

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