It was the last day of swimming class and Alicia was standing on the end of the diving board looking miserable. About 49 ½ % of her wanted to jump off and 50 ½ % didn’t. If a five year old girl is old enough to be conflicted, she was the picture of it.
I was treading water beneath the board, holding my hands up, ready to catch her. I had been teaching Minnows for two summers and Alicia had been with me the entire time. In the Y.M.C.A.’s hierarchy, Minnows occupied the bottom rung of the aquatic ladder. Above them were Fish, Flying Fish, and Sharks. I loved teaching the class. I got the youngest children (usually between four and six years old). Some had anxieties about just getting in the water and almost all were a little nervous about something. Of course, it was the ones who were fearless that you really had to watch!
Most kids made it through Minnows in a summer, some in less time, and then there was Alicia. She was one of those kids who just needed a little more time—nothing about swimming came naturally to her. My job was to help the children learn to relax in the water, teach them to float on their stomach and back, and get them started on a crawl stroke with a leg kick. When they could do these things they were ready to become a Fish. There was one additional requirement: you had to jump off the diving board. And prior to Alicia, I don’t remember it being a problem. Some of the children were a little hesitant so I would swim out by the board and hold my hands up to catch them. That had worked for everyone—until her.
I think all of us are like Alicia at times. There is a significant part of us that wants to believe but there’s also another part that likes the security of the diving board. In the Scripture, this is referred to as being “double-minded.” We sometimes speak of it as “straddling the fence.” However you think of it, it’s an uncomfortable temporary situation and an even worse way to live.
A man asked Jesus to help his son—“if you can do anything,” (Mark 9:22). Christ took exception to his words, “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “Lord I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief” (v. 23-24). And with these words, he jumped off the diving board.
Because not only was his faith seen by his statement “I believe,” but it was more powerfully demonstrated by him asking for Jesus’ help in dealing with his unbelief. You don’t ask for assistance from someone you believe incapable of helping you. He trusted Christ with his belief and his unbelief. That’s a good thing for us to remember the next time we find ourselves standing at the end of the diving board. And Alicia? She found the courage to step off and the next summer she was swimming with the Fish!