We’re Meant to be Swimming in the Deep



I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it. From Gilead, by Marilyn Robinson

Maybe it’s the curse of being a full-time mom for so long, but I find it’s easy to think so many of the things that give me life, things that are not service or social or “worship,” might be quite selfish.

I’m reading Gilead, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Marilyn Robinson, and as with the best of things, it recalls me to myself. Her words are like pools that both reflect and reveal depths at the same time. I am reminded of one of the best moments of my summer. When I was recalled to something forgotten.

We had been trying to find a pool or lake for the puppy, because it had been unseasonably hot here and he needed to exercise. So we took a secluded hike, winding up the dusty path through the trees. We stood on the gravelly edge of the small lake watching a large, extended family of parents and children splashing and playing. The water felt cold, and I felt much too plump to get into the suit I had buried in my sack.

But … water. Oh, Water.

I used to swim and swim, but some asthma (chlorine), injuries (shoulder), and to be honest some mid-life body image issues (25 sudden and unwanted pounds from medications), have gotten in the way of that.

“It’s perfect,” a voice said. It was a young woman, strong, long and lean, dripping and refreshed. Her bearded boyfriend joined in, “You may not be a water person, but …. don’t miss this.”

My sweet husband and son were not into it. The day was spinning along on its wobbly way toward sunset. Was it selfish to make everyone take time and stop? For me?

I listened to the young advisors at the water’s edge, and had my patient partner hold a towel so I could put on the stretched old suit. I waded into the water, a few inches at a time. I stepped into the recollection of green upon blue in dragonfly wings, I bathed in the laughter of small children. It was all here, in this high lake, which was … perfect.

The normally frigid lake was so fresh, and clear and easy. There was no mill foil clinging, no slime. Just rocks, and branches and boughs, and it was mildly warm. I leaned back, floated, and felt the smooth wet wash my hair and my thoughts clean. I let go of the fear, let go of the shore, and swam.

I felt recalled to myself, confident and loose and oh so happy. Ah yes, I remembered. I’m a swimmer. It used to be that I found my sanity in the lanes of a pool. There the quiet and rhythm allowed a parsing of grief, or of the insanity of the day, the news, the family life.

But on this day, in this jewel of reflection and clear water, I let my mind rest. I let my spirit awake to the sky overhead, fringed with leaves and boughs like the lashes of a great blue eye. My thoughts drifted to the One who knows me. Who gets me. Better than any other ever, ever could.

Water is an elemental love. Sky might be yours. Or loud noises, or wet rain, or heat that cracks the bones, or dancing in the motes of a sunrise. Or reading words and letting them bubble into and over you like champagne. All of that beauty feeds us and it comes from the One who knows us.

Time spent in that beauty is not wasted. It is the richest meal. It is the bread of life, from the One who’s called us into communion. We only have to step out into the shallows. Step out a little deeper, and rest in it, and let it wash us and open us to remembering who we truly are. We are meant to be out there, deep, swimming. Not clinging to the shore.

Bathed, blessed, held. Washed.

We are washed in our hearts, and held in our bodies, our souls and our wishes. We are known, so deeply known. The Spirit is always there, ready to show us just how well we are known. But we have to choose to step in and swim. We have to step away from the water’s edge and get truly, drunkenly soaked.

We have to silence the voices that say it is selfish, or wrong to take these moments of delight with the Spirit. We have to drive up the road, go up the mountain and wander that path with the loved one. Let’s give ourselves permission to feed our own spirit whatever it needs today, let the rest of it go and rest in God.


Image credit: Hefin Owen