Most competitive swimmers–whether they’re an Olympian or your average 6th grader–will likely tell you that the hardest part of any event or even a practice day….is that first jump into the water.
When I was on my High School Swim Team, we would practice at the local community college. Every now and then schedules would conflict where we could not practice after school, so we would have to meet at 5:00am. In the morning. In the dark. The cold….cold…dark. Swim season was mostly in the winter, and so to get up before 5:00am to jump into 70 degree water was the most exciting idea. I will still occasionally swim for exercise….but not in the winter; it’s just too depressing. But back then we had to, and the worst part wasn’t the darkness, it wasn’t the trudge up the hill to the pool door, it was standing at that start block, looking down at the inevitable horror of that first jump in–to water that looked so cold it could have been glass. I didn’t want to go in. I wanted to be back home, snug and warm in my cozy, comfortable bed, shielded from all the harshness and uncertainty of the world.
But, of course, no one grows and evolves from staying cozy. Growth, and maturation, and evolution always some from pushing boundaries, usually uncomfortably, usually with uncertainty, and usually starting with taking that first plunge. The truth is most of the time, once that first jump happens, the other pieces start to fall into place. Once you’re in the water, your choices are to just float there, complaining about how cold the water is, or you can start swimming. And, of course, once you start swimming, your body adapts, your mind starts focusing on accomplishing the task rather than so much on how the environment feels. After a while, the water doesn’t feel so freezing, the practice is over, and you can head to your local Perkins for Pigs-In-a-Blanket. Extra pigs.
Yesterday my family and I officially became Floridians. We arrived in Lakeland 2 days ago, and have changed our IDs, gotten insurance, library cards, enrolled our son in school, and went to Publix. It has been an incredible feat, including a 3 day drive, selling our house, and saying Goodbye to lots of family, friends & colleagues, and former parishioners. It has taken years of discernment, patience, and listening, it has taken uncertainty, and eventually it took simply taking that first plunge.
I have never lived anywhere except Kansas. My family did not travel very much, and, kind of like Hobbits, never had many adventures or did anything unexpected. But, as I have gone through a life of professional ministry and married a wonderful, adventurous person, I have learned that there are times when one needs to step out into the unknown. Perhaps not many times; there is much honor and much to be said of those who stay in one place all their lives and can tell from personal experience the story of that place–but even then there will be those opportunities of testing, uncertainty, and having to take that first plunge.
It is likely going to be scary most times. There will be uncertainty, there will haziness, and it will likely feel better just to stay in bed. But the exhilaration of the possibilities can far outweigh the simply comfort of doing what is already known. We’re all going to have our time when we finally need to jump off the start block. Jump in, start swimming, and it won’t be long before the water doesn’t seem as freezing. Then, you can get your Pigs-In-a-Blanket, with extra pigs.