Lessons from lifeguarding

17 08 2007

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When I was in high school, I spent my summers coaching a swim team and working as a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool. One of the prerequisites for those jobs was that I be certified as a lifeguard, which meant taking a lifesaving course before the summer started.

As part of the course we were required to perform mock rescues of fellow participants. One of the things the instructors tried to get across was just how much more difficult it is to save someone who can’t swim but is flailing around trying to save themselves. In the drill, the instructors encouraged the person being rescued to thrash around at first. So you swim up to the “drowning person” and try to get them to calm down and trust that you will get them to safety. If they calm down and let you work, you can pretty easily employ the proper techniques and get them to the side quickly (even if the person is substantially bigger than you). But if they continue to struggle, it becomes much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to save the person. In fact, part of the technique that is taught is to push away from the person if they are thrashing around so much that they are bringing you down too.

You can probably see where I am going with this. We are all drowning in this life. We were born into sin and we face constant battle from Satan, who rules over this world. We have a choice to make, we can work really hard to try to save ourselves or we can let God do the work. The Bible is clear that the only way that works is the latter. And I think we all understand and agree when we are talking about eternal salvation — that only faith in Jesus Christ can save. But what about being saved from this world every day? What about increasingly living a life that is fulfilling and bears fruit?

The first step to living a truly fulfilling life and bearing fruit for God’s kingdom is to acknowledge that you do not have the power to do it. But God does, and He has promised that power to us if we will stop fighting and turn everything over to Him. The more you turn over to Him, the more His strength begins to flow through you and out into others. But you have to stop thrashing around trying to do it yourself — you can’t swim in these waters. This is easy to do, but hard to remember to do. Just like the person who is drowning, if they were standing on the side of the pool looking on, I am certain they would agree that they should stop thrashing about and let the lifeguard bring them to safety. But there in the middle of the pool, their thoughts do not work the same way. We are like that in our life. As you read this, I am sure you are saying, “well, duh.” But the key is to keep this in mind when you are faced with matters of this life. Want to inoculate yourself? When you pray, make it a regular part of your conversation with God to turn your hands over and say, “I can’t do it God, any of it. And I ask you to take over for me and guide my thoughts, my words and my actions in all that I do.” Stop thrashing about and let God take over.

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