Clinging to that Which is Holding You

There’s a lot of swimming going on in the Kelley house right now. Our older two kids are on the summer swim team, and the two year old has finally decided that he likes the water, too.

I don’t mind telling you that I take quite a bit of pride in watching these kids swim. It’s not because swimming is “my thing;” it’s clearly not. I can rehash an experience of doing a lake triathlon in which I ended up back stroking most of the 400 yards to try and keep from drowning. I take pride because, as remedial as my swimming skills are, I had a hand in teaching them how to swim.

Every Saturday for a season I took them as individual kids to the pool for “daddy swim lessons” so they could pass the rite of passage in middle Tennessee and receive the coveted YMCA green armband which is essentially the mark of freedom in the pool. And they worked hard; they passed the swim test.

The thing is that I have the marks on my neck to prove it.

You put a child in the water and they cling to you. HARD. They cling with a violent intensity because they are convinced, in that moment, that their strength is really what’s keeping them from drowning.

But us daddy’s have a secret – it’s not their strength keeping the kids afloat. It’s ours. The reason they aren’t going to drown is because we won’t let them.

But then there’s the wonderful moment when they realize that my grip is stronger than theirs. You can almost see the freedom flicker into their eyes. They suddenly come to the understanding, in a child like way, that their perseverance – their safety – isn’t dependent on their ability to hold on. Their arms are child’s arms. They get tired. But my arms are far stronger. And even when they let go of me because of exhaustion, I’m not going to let them go.

See, I’m their father. And I love them.

I suspect the gospel is lurking there, too, during daddy swim lessons.

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  • Bill Emeott says:

    Awesome, Michael. I love this analogy and will be sharing it in the future (with credit to you, of course).

  • Doc B says:

    I’ve heard and read quite a number of gospel analogies that left me scratching my head. Not so this time. This is one of the clearest analogies I’ve ever seen. Wonder if it’s because I’ve been in that pool on both sides of the equation, as a kid and as a dad?

  • Whit says:

    On the opposite side, I’ve had a rather humbling experience walking around with our now almost 4 month old. He does not nor cannot hold on, but he never has to find out what would happen if I did. How many times have I been like my son, utterly incapable of holding on by my own strength—or even recognizing my need to be held? When the day comes, I can’t wait to teach him the true extent to which he is held and supported and the abundant freedom he has because of it.

    Thanks for the post, Michael.

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