I stood in the shallow end of the swimming pool waiting for my sobbing 5-year-old daughter to jump in. This had been going on for almost 15 minutes.
“I’m scared,” she cried.
“It’s OK to be scared, but you’re not going to give into your fears. Jump,” I said, with my arms raised up.
Tears streamed down her face and she withdrew from the edge of the pool. I felt sorry for her, no doubt, but I didn’t feel sorry enough to let her off the hook. This was a regular routine with us.
She would be afraid to do something — learning to ride her bike or climbing the monkey bars, for example — and she would shut down emotionally. I wouldn’t have it. I wasn’t going to enable irrational anxieties and let fearfulness become a part of her character. But the pool was pushing her to the brink and I didn’t know if we were going to make it this time.
“No, Daddy! I can’t do it,” she screamed, sobbing more loudly.
“Yes, you can,” I said, with my hands about four inches from her armpits. “I’m right here. What are you afraid of?”
“That you won’t catch me and you’ll let me drown.”
Now she was definitely going to jump. This wasn’t just about her getting over her fears. It was about trusting me as her dad, so I kept pushing.
After 15 more minutes of exhausting back and forth, finally she relented and jumped. As promised, I caught her, after which we both celebrated and she wanted to do it again.
This isn’t just my daughter’s story. It’s the story of every person who’s learning to trust Father God, the one who pushes us to places we didn’t know we could go.
“Jump,” he says through Scripture, the nudge of his Holy Spirit or the encouragement of another person.
We freeze up, preferring to stay in our safety zones, but he pushes us hard anyway. He wants us to trust, to learn to live free from our dependence on fear for protection.
So we resist and plead and tell God why we’re incapable of obeying him. We cling to our addictions, refuse to forgive, constantly criticize people, decline to confess our sins to others, or refuse to love unlovable people. But he won’t have it. He’s not going to enable our fearful disobedience.
Father God lovingly demands that we release our fears, embracing the risk that comes with dying to ourselves so that we can live for him. And when we finally let go and take the plunge into obedience, we discover that we’re safe. He is there to catch us.