I’d never describe myself as an athlete, but the one place I come close to being athletic is in a pool. In college, I often swam a mile on my lunch hour. That of course sounds all Glory Days now, but it’s good for me to remember what I could do when…
I find myself living in Florida, giddy with joy at the prospect of having two pools in my backyard — one with waves, one with a maintenance man — and upon my first visit find I can now swim all of 6 laps before I have to rest to catch my breath. Ouch.
I know, I know…long journeys/single steps, gotta start somewhere and a bunch of other clichés, but still.
Six laps? As I laid in the sun for a solid twenty minutes before doing 6 more (and calling it a day) I amused myself thinking that the vision we have of ourselves in our minds is never quite accurate now, is it?
Sometimes, the way we picture our self is exceptionally BETTER than the real deal. Sometimes, sadly, we envision ourselves as much worse than is accurate.
Martin Luther called either of these self-perceptions a form of sin. One linked to the sin of pride; the other to the sin of excess – both taken to an extreme. Too much pride and we picture ourselves still Olympic swimmers 30 years later; too much humility and we think we need a noodle just to climb in the pool. Either way, whether we get stuck in Glory Days or hang out in the valley of fear, the visions can cause us to live lives less full than the ones to which the Holy Spirit beckons.
It’s odd to think of these inaccurate visions of ourselves as sin; frankly I don’t ponder this often. But it’s also useful, because when you define sin as less than God’s best for our lives, you begin to see how this system of transformation works. The antidote to self-images that are limiting is community: real community. The kind of community made up of good friends and family and neighbors who will laugh with us when we tell the truth: 6 laps. That was the starting point. I called my friend Pam with this humbling revelation. Pam who I met in my last call who is surely part of my circle now forever. The circle of faith knows no limits — not even those of distance.
We laughed. I regrouped, hung up, and got back in the pool. Ended with a total of 12 laps. In a pool in my backyard. Left happily refreshed and tired for having gotten in the water.
As I write this story for you now, I hear in my mind a favorite hymn which is based on Isaiah 55: Oh all who thirst, let them come to the water…and all who have nothing let them come to the Lord. Without money, without price, how will you spend your life…come to the Lord…
And so I begin my third call, washed by the water; bringing the Good News beachside.
Thank you, Jesus.