The Dream job
When I was a teenager, wanting to spend every moment possible at the Science Park pool, my friend Tammy and I signed up for Water Safety Instruction, the class required to become a lifeguard. We came as a pair. She was the pretty one and I was the confident one. Together, we were both better. Somehow I felt prettier, and Tammy felt more confident. We fantasized about our someday job — sitting high in the chair, looking very important, tanning while swinging a whistle. That would be the life. Without realizing it, signing up didn’t guarantee a thing. On that first day of class, I was both shocked and shattered to learn that Tammy didn’t make the cut. At 15, youngest in the class, and without Tammy to make me brave, I was a hundred twenty pounds of insecurity.
I remember Tom’s speech. “You are an elite group. You’ve been hand chosen to become ‘SP Guards’. We see something in you. But certification will require everything you have. I expect maximum effort, concentration, fortitude, and commitment. This will test your meddle. Are you in”? The fantasy I imagined with Tammy seemed to be way off in never-land. Because I was too chicken to leave, I just kept breathing, hoping no one would notice my fear and trembling.
Lifeguard — Not so Fast
Still somewhat stunned and intimidated, Tom wanted each of us to go home knowing two things. 1. his expectations (NO PROBLEM THERE) and 2. the importance of being teachable.
Bruce, an especially tall and handsome WSI graduate, volunteered to a mock drowning. He jumped in the deep end and flailed and flailed and flailed. Tom kept talking. Bruce splashed and sputtered and flailed some more. Tom kept talking. I became anxious. This is fake, right? Why is Tom ignoring him? Are we supposed to do something? Is this some sort of a test? After what seemed like an eternity, Bruce stopped flailing. His head stopped bobbing. His body became calm and even a bit limp. Tom FINALLY jumped in to help Bruce. Without any struggle at all, Tom easily dragged Bruce through the deep end to safety. What seemed like incredibly cruel treatment of Bruce, left an indelible impression on me.
Life Lessons from the Lifeguard chair
In water safety we learned that it’s important to be keenly attentive, but to WAIT to rescue someone until they’re ready to be rescued. Until they’re teachable. What? That seems ludicrous. Tom went on to explain that while someone is flailing his cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) is in overdrive. If you jump in to rescue him, his adrenaline is likely to take you under. So you wait. You toss him the ring, to give him something to wrestle. And then, only when he is out of fight, do you enter the water yourself. In other words, you wait until he is teachable. This understanding is key for a small nothing teenager to possess the ability to rescue anyone, including a 220 pound man.
Wow. It makes sense. But wow.
Tom explained that a drowning person is in no position to understand logic let along basic instructions. He is completely unteachable. When gasping for air, nothing else matters. In that moment, it makes complete sense to the victim to hold onto anything, including his rescuer, in an attempt to save his own life.
Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
The life lesson of that water safety truth is not lost on me. How many of us, gasping for air, hold on to anything in this life in an attempt to save ourself.
I’m stubborn. I know that about myself. If you’re going to be wrong, at least be wrong with confidence I say. My secret is out. But teachable… hmm. That is a life skill that doesn’t come naturally. God has been working on me. With all humility, it has become my hearts desire. Not my will, Lord, but thy will be done. It’s almost as if God has been waiting for me to stop flailing. He’s been ever present and attentive. And He has seen moments of teachability. Now though, He sees that my fight has subsided. Given this past year, maybe my faith has matured. Maybe the Holy Spirit’s voice is louder. Perhaps, He has gifted me with traces of wisdom. I’m listening. Humble me to remain teachable.
Unfortunately, my stubborn, confident, unteachable DNA has been passed along to my handsome ginger. And sadly, it causes him to flail. Isn’t it curious how easily detectable our own weaknesses are in someone else? It is as if God has a spotlight on Ian’s flailing (the speck in Ian’s eye) causing me to look into the mirror. (the log in my own eye)
Have you ever prayed for clarity? At a crossroads facing two reasonable directions, I ask “which way Lord? Give me clarity.”
The great teacher of ethics John Kavanaugh visited Mother Teresa while working for three months at her “house of the dying” in Calcutta. He was seeking clarity from God on the direction for his future. She asked him, “What can I do for you?”
He asked, “Pray that I have clarity.”
Mother Teresa said firmly, “No. I will not do that.” He was surprised and asked her why. She explained, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”
Taken aback, he said, “But you seem to have clarity from God.”
Mother Teresa laughed, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.” (Brendan Manning tells this story in Ruthless Trust on page 5.)
But… that has been my prayer
This writing gig has caught me by surprise. It has been fun. And I’m humbled to hear how it is blessing others. But how do I proceed? What resources do I commit and how much time do I devote? It’s all very blurry. I want clarity.
It’s true, if it’s all laid out in front of me, things are more comfortable. I’m able to see and plan. I can enjoy some control.
God’s timing is divine. It was one year ago today, after nearly 6 weeks of an induced coma, Ian rejoined us.
Excerpts from my FB post 9/26/2017
“OH MY GOD! There are really no words. We have indeed witnessed a miracle — Many miracles really leading up to having Ian back. I feel like we are on the top of the roller coaster… there are turns ahead, and some dark tunnels… but it is clear God is the driver and will see things through til the end.
It is safe to say on that day last year, as giddy as we all were, there was NO clarity. ZERO. ZIPPO. NADA! But God was in our midst so blatantly there was BIG, BOLD, RENEWED TRUST. I remember it well. Life was NOT comfortable, but it was exhilarating.
Nothing strengthens trust quite like blindness
Aww yes. Blindness. In the dark, God’s torch lit the very next step. Never ten steps, lest I gain confidence and begin to see, but just one step, then the next, then the next. Only in looking back, do I get my clarity. Only in looking back, do I see what He accomplished.
Trust in God vs. Seeking Clarity
It seems as if I have a choice. I can live a life of clarity with small-minded steps and predictable paths. The result — an OK life where I enjoy some control. Or I can live a life of trust. Boldly embracing my blindness. Unsure, I step anyway on that next step and wait for direction from there. The result — my very best life, the life He promises.
I’ve wrestled with the tension between trust vs clarity, this whole week. I’m a math and science person, a concrete thinker. Just tell me the what is and I’m good with that. (even if it may be difficult to implement) After praying and scouring the scriptures I still don’t think I have it figured out. Yes trust is paramount. But why is it, in my experience, that clarity is not always completely elusive?
God is God
I think it’s because the Lord Himself is uncontainable. He is God. Sometimes I think He chooses to grant us temporary clarity. He knows we’re on the brink and we need a gracious respite. In that place of rest He’s restoring us and preparing us for the next trust requiring twist.
After writing that conclusion I admit that I have a sense of relief. I don’t think trust vs. clarity is an either or proposition. In my mind the Holy Spirit is saying… “Just enjoy me. If you’re only concerned about what God wants you to do, you may miss who God wants you to be. Instead Just keep walking with me. We’ll do life together.”
When we’re obsessed with getting clarity from God, unable to move forward without it, we may be relying on Him as a means. Instead, He desires to be the end.