Yesterday was a terrifying day for me. I went swimming and I was scared.
Allow me to give all of you some context to my terror. At the end of March I underwent a cornea transplant in my left eye. When my patch was removed I was told several things that I should immediately cease doing in my day-to-day life. First, no lifting of heavy objects. Second, nothing that would raise my pulse too much. Third, absolutely no swimming or getting chemicals in my eye.
Over the past few months I have done my best to avoid lifting heavy objects. A few weeks ago I was told that I could exercise again. Last week I was told that I could go swimming again.
Now, I love to swim. Swimming is one of my favorite things to do in the world. I love being in water and swimming long distances. I may not be able to run due to my back and my ankle, but I can consistently swim farther than most people can run. I’m not kidding or bragging when I say that I like to swim long distances. I often swim at the YMCA until my skin begins to react to the chemicals, which happens to me after about 2 hours. I really do love to swim…
My love of swimming is great, but it took me a week to build up the courage to go to the YMCA after receiving permission. I was certain that my eye would immediately have problems the moment that a single drop of chlorinated water made it into my goggles. I was also convinced that tightening them to the point where water would not be able to get into the goggles would lead to a tight seal that would create a pressure that would cause damage to my cornea. I was terrified that something would go wrong for the entirety of the last week.
I was scared. I did what I try to do whenever I get scared about something irrational. I faced my fear and I went swimming. My eye didn’t pop out from over exertion. My cornea did not dissolve when some water made it into my goggles. Nothing went wrong in the slightest… Well, technically I did chicken out in the name of being reasonable and only swam for 45 minutes. I am told that there is nothing wrong with a sensible amount of caution.
I am reminded of a story from the Bible as I think back to the moment that I entered the pool. The whole of nation of Israel was standing next to the Jordan in the third chapter of Joshua. The people of God were finally ready to enter the promised land, but one last thing needed to take place. The people needed to cross the Jordan. Here’s what it says in Joshua 3:14-16: (NRSV)
“When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off…”
I love that the people of God are waiting to cross the river, but first twelve priests have to carry the ark into the midst of the river. They are told that the river will stand still, but the water only stands still after the twelve enter into the water. Can you imagine being the person who steps in first? Can you imagine the movement of the ark continuing forward and moving you closer and closer to the swollen river? Can you imagine the feeling of the current tugging at your toes while you carry the ark of God into the water?
It had to be a tense moment when the priests first stepped into the water. The priests still stepped forward into the river. They had to have had courage to take those first few steps in faith.
We all sometimes need to be reminded that courage is often a necessity in life. We all have moments where we wonder if the river will stop, if an eye will survive a dip in the pool, or if everything will be okay. Sometimes we all need to step into the river with courage.