It was a slightly overcast, cool summer morning as I treaded water, waiting for the last assignment I'd have to pass to prove I was officially capable to go in the deep end on my own. Craig, the lifeguard who had trained me for weeks, let me know that all I had left was to hold my breath under water for a full minute, and then I'd be a certified swimmer. I was pumped. Let's do this!
I go under, thinking about how great it's going to be when I can swim out to the far dock by myself. My body is barely under the surface (I had always had a hard time with negating buoyancy), but I knew I was golden as long as my face stayed in the lake. Time passes rather slowly staring into murky darkness, and so it wasn't long afterward that my excitement started to turn into curiosity as to how much time was left. I waited, still holding my breath. Then, of course, curiosity flipped slowly over into fear, and fear quickly turned straight to panic. I can't do this! Who ever thought I could! Craig has forgotten about me-- He stopped watching the clock-- I've been under here FOREVER. I'm... I'mm....I'M DROWNING!!!!!!!!
My head breaks the surface of the water and I inhale the air deeply. I look up to see Craig, fully expecting him to lift my arms in a victory pump and to hear him apologize for forgetting the time, but instead he just seemed sorrowful. "oh, Leah," he sighed. "You only had 4 more seconds to go."
WHAT?! What do you mean? Does this mean I don't pass? There's no way you mean that. Just 4 more seconds? Come ON!? Why wasn't there any indication as to how close I was to the end of my suffering? Didn't you even think to give me an encouraging countdown underwater so I would know to hold out a little longer? Why couldn't you let me know that success was almost in my water-pruned hands?
Disappointed, I listened to Craig tell me that he'd have to reschedule my swim test for the following Saturday. 7 more days I'd have to wait in the shallow end until I could prove I was ready for deeper waters. I was crushed.
The following week, I impatiently swam my way through all the drills until it was time to go underwater again. This time I was going to make it. No way was I going to fall privy to the cries of sweet air. I waited for Craig to tell me that I needed to stay underwater for a full minute, waited until I saw him hold up the timer, and then, I was under.
Total confidence brimmed like oxygen in my body. Failure wasn't even on the horizon today. I KNEW I was able to pass-- just last week I had conquered 56 seconds on my first attempt. But (and you know the story), the lake stayed around my face, not planning on going anywhere except IN me. The water jostled to enter into my nose and mouth like elbows pushing their way through thick hallway crowds. I began to run out of air, and then the fear of not being able to breathe started to mock my confidence. Immediately I thought of pulling up for air. Passing a swimming test is not worth dying for, right? Who cares about what the other kids say? Who even cares about proving it to myself? I almost had myself convinced that the wait didn't add up to the supposed reward, but, just at that crucial moment, these words surfaced in my memory-- "you only have 4 more seconds to go". 4 seconds? I can do four more seconds...,and so I counted 4..3..2..1. But-- no tap on the shoulder to announce the torture was over. Okay, 4 more seconds. I can do just 4 more seconds: 4...3...2...1. Still underwater. I was in my 3rd round of counting down "4 more seconds", when I felt the triumphant tap on my shoulder. I DID IT!!! I had fought my fears, conquered my panic, and passed the test!
It's funny how the Lord brought this experience into my mind recently to teach me something incredibly powerful about His beautiful timing. These past few weeks I have been dealing with some difficult demons-- dark waters pressing in which threaten to cut off my air supply. Often, I feel trapped, my chest tightened, and the normal, natural act of breathing becomes this heroic feat that I struggle to even attempt.
Life is hard, and time can go very slowly during the difficult seasons. How often I jump into my day enthusiastically, only to soon find my questions rising and my hope sinking. Doubts crowd my head and I start to wonder about the God Who holds my timer. Has He forgotten? Surely He's stopped looking. Perhaps I need to thrash more-- wait, that's not working? Then I need to just come up out of the test, and let Him know that I've passed it when He wasn't paying attention. But, every time I do that, every time I think enough time has passed , I pop out of the struggle early to bask in Christ's enthusiastic congratulations, only to find His sorrow filled voice saying, "Oh, Leah... You only had 4 more seconds."
Disappointment comes when we find ourselves facing the same tests over and over. Patterns of enthusiasm, confidence, questions, fear, then panic show up over and over again in our lives, and we turn to blame the One who is watching us struggle. But, you see-- It's not about the silence when the waves are over our heads... It's not about the fact that He who knows has given us no indication of how close we are to the finish. It matters not how much our lungs are burning, or how anxious our thoughts. It only matters that we stay in it until the time has been completed.
Oh beloved, remind yourself of this: He is ever watching, and is NEVER LATE. He longs to place the victor's crown upon your head and enable you to venture out into deeper waters with Him. Don't let your impatience rob you of that which is at your doorstep! Don't let the panic of tomorrow's fears or the stifling of today's dark circumstances cause you to mistrust your Lifeguard's hand. He holds your every moment, and He is a good steward of what He owns. Repeat to yourself His words to you-- Life is but a vapor; how quickly it fades! or Take no thought about tomorrow; tomorrow has enough to take care of its own or See? I have inscribed you in the palm of My hands! Faithful is He who began a good work in you-- He will complete it!!
You can handle the next 4 seconds-- it will be far worth the freedom that awaits you when you surface as a victor.