Last month, while in Hawaii, I wrote a post entitled Conquering Fear-Moving Forward With A Big Splash. In this post, I talked about how we need to push back against fear in order to gain ground against it. A personal example was happening in real-time…overcoming the fear of drowning by becoming comfortable in our vacation swimming pool, and so I wrote about it. (Link to that prior post.) Today I share another valuable lesson that came from that event: finding the power in surrender.
As mentioned previously, water was uncomfortable territory for me. I hadn’t practiced the skills learned in childhood swimming lessons, thus I avoided water. Years of dodging pools and beaches reinforced the fear like spiked snow tires wearing a rut in good roads. A five-week Hawaiian vacation, including two weeks in quarantine, seemed the ideal “no excuse” period for making change. It was the ideal set up for success.
GAINING INSIGHT WHILE FACING FEAR
I jumped into the deep end to enter the pool. Donning goggles, I took the plunge, eyes open in observation. Over and over, day after day I entered the waters this way, limiting the temptation of backing out of the goal. Yet every single leap began with feelings of anxiety and an “I don’t want to” hesitation. Sometimes I crouched on the pool’s edge, heart pounding in contemplation of whether this was truly necessary. This was worry…fear in action. However, my want for change was the over-riding force; backing out was not an option.
When jumping in, there is a fraction of time, slow enough to be aware of and too fast to stop, when the brain registers cold water…feet…legs…torso…engaging before the head has hit. Repetition showed me that this shock of transition, the physical discomfort of dry to wet and warm to cold, was connected to my fear of water. My body’s response to cold resembles its reaction to fear. I “freeze.” From jaw to feet I tense, balling up in protective form. Full body constriction is my go-to posture when chilled, whether it is a November football game or in a refreshing pool in a tropical climate. I had associated cold with anxiety rather than any actual drowning experiences (of which I had none). Seizing up is not conducive to swimming, it turns out, relaxation is.
PEACE IN SURRENDER
The goggles I wore offered the ability to see what was going on, giving me a sense of control. But more than that, having my eyes open under water gave me a great reward of seeing the beauty of sunbeams pouring in through the water. Have you ever noticed how the sun pours its rays through cloud cover and you can trace the line of light? This is what I saw while emersed in the deep end…every single time.
These two or three seconds of pure loveliness became something I desired. Within this short window before reemerging, I gazed in awe at the filtered light while acclimating to the water’s temperature. I felt peace while submerged, despite the fear only a moment before. It took only a couple days of experiencing this positive reinforcement to begin to crave it, changing my attitude about the water. I learned to love it.
Resurfacing brought the last challenge of the pool: staying afloat. Surrender was the one common theme with this challenge of conquering fear. As long as I was uptight and breathing very shallowly, I struggled to swim or tread water or float for very long. Forcing myself to breathe deeply made all the difference. I noticed that when I filled my lungs up fully with air, I became more buoyant in the water. Letting all that air out forcefully led to sinking. Breathing deeply and exhaling slowly, however, allowed for a balance, one that I could use both in the water and out. I was relaxing.
Using my breath to de-stress made the act of swimming easy. Easy! Once at ease, I could talk and tread water, swim laps or float on my back and watch the sky. It was an exercise in letting go of my worries and trusting that a calm, quiet spirit had more power. There was power in surrender!
How can I not feel God’s hand in this experience?
When I am “all in” with God, trusting Him, I am at peace. Life is easier. When I give in to that state, my eyes are open to the beauty of His kingdom. He shows me things I would not see otherwise…and I come to crave His presence.
Trust comes with a price. There is a requirement of sacrificing ego…my need to be right…my fears in what might hurt…the self-protection in worry form…even my want to be in control as God. It is an ongoing process of lay-it-down and jump-on-in that is completely worth it.
SURRENDER IS A PRACTICE
I’d like to toot my horn and tell you what a success I am with swimming now. After five weeks of “deep-ending it,” I still hesitated on the deck. If there was a pool in front of me now, I’d still have that moment of worry. I’m not perfected. *Sigh.* There is work yet to be done. I need more practice.
Since leaving Hawaii, I miss the sunlight streaming through the blue water and the dance of reflection off its surface. That quick and shocking transition into the cool and peaceful is absent in my daily routine, and there have been moments of stress at home where I have wished to return to the pool to de-stress. That’s a big turnaround!
It’s not the pool I need, however, it’s the surrender of the worry to God.
Do you already know the power of surrender? Remember it’s God that brought that calm to you. He continues to offer His way through this life and into the next.
Do you still worry? Yeah, me too. We have more “perfecting” yet to be accomplished in us. What if we practice this new skill together? Let’s hold hands, together take a deep breath and surrender to Him completely.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
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There are many Christian resources for help or study in overcoming fear. Here are a couple that I recommend with the links to those resources:
Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup
Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado