My daughter buried her face into my leg and clung to me with a white-knuckled grip as the swim instructor approached the pool deck. She was an older lady who had been teaching swim lessons for years. She introduced herself and called each name on her list of those waiting for Tuesday night swim. The other kids in the class lined up easily, with the confidence of having done this before, but not my daughter. She had tears streaming down her face as I nudged her in the direction of her instructor, and I had to reassure her that she was safe.
I thought back to two summers before when we were lounging by the pool at the home of the friend. Enjoying the sun with music playing softly in the background, we talked and caught up on life. My daughter was an arms length away, lathered in sunscreen, and wearing her pink swimmie with the purple starfish decal. Happily, she was sitting on the steps of the pool playing in the water. Out of nowhere, her foot slipped, and she fell backwards with her swimmie holding her up. Still, the chlorinated water splashed into her mouth and nose. Looking to me, she held her arms up and cried for me to rescue her from the frightening event that just happened.
From behind the glass viewing area, I watch my daughter as she faced her fears that night at swim class. She allowed herself to be led by the instructor into the pool, where she learned how to blow bubbles in the water and float on her back. She even spent the next few days eagerly asking when she could go back.
“You were so brave,” I told her, to which she replied that she wasn’t brave because she had felt afraid.
“Yes,” I countered, “you were afraid, and you did it anyway and that makes you brave.” You see, her instructor didn’t know the backstory of her fear. She didn’t know about that summer day when she slipped in the pool and thought she was going to go under. But as her mother, and the one who knows her deeply and intimately, I did. I knew.
I thought about how God is the same with me and with each of us. He knows all the details of our lives. Why we fear the things we do.
Why some of us are more prone to anxiety.
Why some of us lack courage more than others when facing certain situations.
And He is compassionate towards us, reminding us of who we are, even as we are feeling vulnerable in any given moment.
In Judges chapter 6 can be found the story of Gideon. He is going about his day’s work of threshing wheat, when the Lord appears to and greets him. First Gideon is told that the Lord is with him, and then the Lord calls him "a mighty warrior." The truth of what is really going on in Gideon’s heart is evident by his response. Gideon begins to question if the Lord is really with him and verbalizes feeling abandoned by God. He also expresses doubt over being referred to as a mighty warrior. In reality, Gideon does not see himself that way, at all.
“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ ‘But sir, Gideon replied, ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt? But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian. The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you? ‘But Lord, Gideon asked, ‘How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and will strike down all the Midianites together.” (Judges 6:12-16, NIV)
In this passage, the Lord isn't rebuking Gideon for expressing his feelings or his doubt. On the contrary, the Lord is speaking the God-given identity to Gideon by calling him a "mighty warrior" and reminding Gideon that He will be with him to help win the victory. The same is true in the way God approaches each of us. He approaches us with compassion, reminding us of who we are, and the greatness we are able to accomplish by trusting God.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT There have been many moments in my life when I have felt ill-equipped for the circumstances in which I have found myself.
Like the time my son seemed bent on going down a destructive path, no matter how much I tried to talk him out of it.
Or the time I accepted my dream job, but then doubted my own confidence, experience level, and whether or not I was the right one for the job.
God knows what I am thinking and feeling and is “familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:3 NIV) before I even say it. Each of those moments (and more) have been met by His grace. God has equipped me with the confidence that He has chosen me for “such a time as this.” (Esther 4:15 NIV)
PRAYER Father, I thank you for the promise that “I can do all things through you, who gives me strength.” * May each moment of fear and of feeling inferior be met with the reminder of how you see me, that you are with me, and that I don’t have to be afraid. Amen.
*Philippians 4:13, NIV
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