Passing the Deep End Test

An old friend reminded me that throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was no lover of deep water. From eight to eighteen, I spent significant portions of my summer at Camp Canonicus. As a camper, I was barred from the deep end of the designated swimming area unless I could pass the swim test – three laps the length of the docks. For most campers, it was not a strenuous swimming challenge. For me, it was the English Channel.

I was a chubby, skirted –swimsuit- wearing, non-swimmer but I coveted access to the deep end. Every summer I would screw my courage to the sticking place and make the long walk to the far end of the dock. Plugging my nose and hyperventilating in anticipation of the effort and humiliation, I would jump in and begin my quest. By my third summer, Harold the lifeguard would extend the rescue pole over my head the moment I made my initial plunge. By the middle of the second lap, I would grasp at the pole sputtering and gasping like a clumsy kitten emerging from a pail of water. I was well into adolescence before I achieved admission to the deep end and the most I ever did with the privilege was tread water before lying on the far dock to tan.

Looking back, what strikes me is that as badly as I wanted to swim in the deep end and as much as I dreaded the yearly humiliation, I never did anything to work toward my goal. I did not ask for help or guidance. I did not get swim lessons. I did not practice swimming in the shallow end. Nothing. I just expected every year that somehow, magically, by virtue of the fact that I had aged a year, I would be able to pass the test that time. Eventually, I did pass but it was a lame, straggling pass and I have never enjoyed the deep water nor did I progress as a swimmer beyond that point.

A lot of times, that’s how I approach my spiritual life. I long to swim in the deep end of faith. I know there will be testing to merit that privilege. But often I spurn counsel, effort, teaching and training and expect that I will somehow, magically, by virtue of spending more days on this earth, be able to pass the test and gain admission to the deep water. When God extends His rescue pole and fishes me out – exhausted early and floundering – He shakes His head – like Harold the lifeguard.

At times when I do manage to reach deep water, I feel lost and out of my element. I don’t know how to really milk the experience and the most I manage is to tread water before heading back to the familiar shore.

There is nothing I can add to the sacrifice of Christ to earn eternal life with God. But I can put effort into pursuing those virtues which will keep me from being ineffective and unproductive on this side of Heaven.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness and to goodness, knowledge ; and to knowledge, self-control and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness;; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 2 Peter 1: 5-10

I long to spend my life in the deep end but not just to arrive there but to be adept there, at home and able to support the efforts of others who venture out that far. What efforts do you make to deepen your faith and to avoid spending life in the shallow end of God’s great adventure?

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    The Conversation

  1. Great post, Lori! Just what I needed to be reminded of today.

  2. Les Stobbe says:

    Excellent analogy, well done! I have a whole different swimming story, but eventually learned to swim a few laps in a pool.
    Les Stobbe

  3. Jenn Convey says:

    I cannot tell you how very much I am exactly in this spot – looking ahead to the deep end but leary & weary of doing the work to get there. In fellowship group we’ve been reading “Hidden in Plain Sight” – can’t remember the author – all about the very verses in 1Peter you quoted. Thanks for the poke to keep me awake and dwelling on the goal!