So earlier this week I went with a friend to an outdoor training pool that I had not been to before. I am in the middle of triathlon training season, so every chance I have to get my bootie in water….I have to take! (Many of you may remember my story that I learned to swim at age 39 and did my first triathlon as a 40th birthday present to myself! I am now getting ready to do triathlon #7….yahoo!)
The pool we went to was twice the length of the pool I normally train in. And…..it was 12 ft, 6 inches deep. PERFECT for a training swim. But I just kept thinking… jeesh it’s long and wow it’s deep. Within minutes of arriving at the pool, the dreaded fear that I have had since I was a child started to crawl in my belly. If you have every had a fear of water, you will understand. (and if you have a fear of water, I encourage you to read all of my blog posts about “triathlon” on here to see how I have faced and overcome it!)
My boys were quickly cannon-balling into the deep end. Because, well….. they don’t have a fear of water and they were excited for a new pool experience.
And then there was Ava. Poor Ava. She is crying real live alligator tears and insisting that she can go in the deep end too. Anyone with more than one kiddo knows the challenge of being the baby in the family. They just want to be “big” like the other kids! But, the lifeguard told her that because she is only 6 ….she had to wear a life vest to swim in the pool and had to stay at the shallow end. Unless he says…. UNLESS she can pass a swim test. She would have to jump into the 12 1/2 foot water feet first (so basically sink to the bottom), then swim the entire length of the pool without touching the sides/resting/stopping. As soon as he says this, Ava whips off her life vest and says “yep, I’ll do it”.
So I know you don’t know my Ava, but this girl is not afraid to try anything. At 2 years old she was tubing behind a boat in the Lake of the Ozarks. She was also bluff diving at age 2 which meant I had to bluff dive for the first time because for the love of all things holy…. I couldn’t let my 2 year old jump alone!
She is determined to ride the Mamba at Worlds of Fun this year. She climbs trees, she touches worms, she is the only one of my children to have a broken bone and stitches…. she is UNAFRAID. She doesn’t even consider that she CAN’T do things, ya know? In her mind, she can do anything. It is remarkable and terrifying at the same time as her mother.
So I am freaking out on the inside watching her walk to the deep end. Everything in me is thinking “she can’t do it”. I don’t want you to think that I’m a crappy, negative mom. I just kept thinking it’s a long way for me to swim as a grown up who is in relatively decent physical shape….surely she is going to get tired.
So she puts on her goggles and I start to say something to her and with God as my witness I am telling you…. I’ve never felt so convicted to SHUT MY MOUTH as I did at that moment. It was like God reached right down from Heaven and put His hand over my yapper. LOL. I knew that I knew that I knew that I was NOT to do anything but to encourage her.
And so I did.
And so she jumped.
Now, my little ball of fire can’t really “swim”. She does more of a doggie paddle / mermaid style swim. She would come up for air, go back under water and kick her little heart out. Come back up, get air, repeat.
I was freaking out.
I wanted to tell her it was ok if she had to stop and rest. Because I was certain she would have to.
I wanted to tell her it was ok if she couldn’t do it. But instead, I followed her the length of that pool with my friend Jody, both of us with tears in our eyes and we cheered our hearts out for my baby girl.
She never took her eyes off the other end of the pool except to occasionally look at me for reassurance. And I felt so convicted.
As I watched her make it all the way to the other end, I literally had a sermon play out before me.
So often in life I think people want to support us….but because of their own fears or their own failures…. they tell us it’s “ok if we can’t do it”. They mean absolutely no harm by it, they are just innocently, unintentionally putting their “stuff” on you. I could have so easily done that to Ava. My fear of water is very real. I innocently wanted her to know I would UNDERSTOOD and still loved her if it was too much for her. I would have given her an out in doing so.
Had I told Ava it would be ok if she didn’t make it, with her little ears….. she could have heard “my mom doesn’t really think I can”. This same thing applies to us adults. When someone gives us an “it’s ok if”….. we instinctively hear just a tiny bit in the depths of our heart that they don’t believe in us. They don’t think we can do it. Kids especially are so sensitive to this. I felt so convicted by it. Our children have gotta know that of everyone.in.the.whole.world….. their parents think they can.
As I watched Ava swimming and processing that she might actually to do it, I realized she didn’t have an exit plan. It was literally sink or swim. I certainly didn’t give her an exit plan. I wanted to….I was getting ready to tell her she could rest on the side at any time. Of course that would have disqualified her from the wrist band she so badly wanted. Think of how often we start something…but have a plan “b” just in case it doesn’t work out. That logic of giving 95% of your heart to something, but keeping a little in reserve “just in case” will not get us the finish we are looking for. When I saw that Ava’s eyes were fixed only on the finish line and I could tell she was “all in”…. it was then that I knew she would not fail.
How blessed I am to get to mother these little people. They teach me so, so much about life.
I hope this encourages someone today. Perhaps people have unknowingly spoken words over you that have made you doubt your worth or your future or your dreams. If so, I hope you know that they are often speaking out of their own hurts and failures and fears. “Hurting people hurt people.” Cut them some slack. Love them anyway. They often know not what they say. You dig deep and keep going.
If the people closest to you have not been your biggest encouragers, I pray that your heart will heal and that you will find people who will “stand in your corner”. Sometimes it just takes ONE PERSON believing in you to make all the difference in the world. I hope you HAVE that person. And I hope you ARE that person to someone. Remember we reap what we sow. Sow encouragement. Sow courage. Sow belief in someone else’s dream.
And if you know you are holding back for fear of failing, oh how I hope you will decide to give it 110% percent. When we leave ourselves exit routes…. whether in marriage, in business, in relationships….we know it. They know it. We will never know what can happen and how amazing our businesses and relationships can be until we are all the way in.
Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if we each believed with all our hearts that we could do something great and we encouraged others to do the same?
Bless you friends. I hope this spoke to someone’s heart today. If so, please share and comment.
Great post, Jennifer. Sharing. xo
This is great Jennifer! As a wife, mom and leader, I completely connect with this post. I have the tendency to also want to be ‘kind’ and let people know they are appreciated even if they are only able to accomplish x% of the goal but I’m looking at this habit differently. I believe in people and want them to feel that not that I doubt their abilities! Thank you for the perspective.