take my hand

I’ve spent a fair amount of time at the pool lately. What I wish I had to show for it was a better tan and sun-kissed hair, but alas, all I can claim is a sore throat (from yelling) and an increased level of patience (from sitting in crowded, sort of smelly and largely unnavigable school pool areas).

See, Connor’s been swimming alongside the Allegan middle school team. From the time we started CJ in swim, I’ve loved watching him. I do believe he has some natural ability in the water, but as we chatted the other night, there are only so many sports and well, he doesn’t want to be forced into a Sophie’s choice-type situation later. The kid’s eleven. I just love his logic.

Anyway, there is something really special to me about the camraderie of swimming. It’s largely individual but also very much team-oriented when you consider the events and how scoring works. I watched CJ the other night as he wrapped up his swimming. He’d been sitting at the end of the pool, leg propped up on a bench, and he saw that one of his teammates was going to swim next so he walked to the furthest lane and sat down at the immediate end of it to ensure his friend knew he was there cheering him on. And that’s been happening all season. There are kids, too, who might still need some help getting out of the water. And I’ve watched both teammates and lane timers alike hold a hand out to assist.

The other night we were in a pool area that could have used some further consideration during the design phase. The seating is basically carpeted stairs so you can both walk and sit. That’s all fine and good. The issue was that there were no aisles in the roughly 30-35m (guessing based on pool length) of seating. And it was a conference meet. And there were about eleventy billion people there. (Or concessions or ventilation but I won’t even bring that up. I mean … )

So, when I had to use the restroom as I inevitably do, I had to climb over my other sweaty and likely annoyed friends to get to the walkway. A woman at the top step (just before the opening to freedom) offered her hand as I exited. Her husband teased about how much fun I must be having and I just smiled and said, ‘i’m so sorry. i’m just trying not to step on anyone today.’ But I saw her hand. It was really all I saw and I was too proud to take it.

‘I’ve got this,’ I thought. I don’t need the help.

And how many times do we freaking do that? How many times do I? It’s actually … always. And frankly? I’m tired of it. I seriously can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had lately about enoughness. And striving. And performing. And not letting anyone see our weakness. And of course, mostly with women but I’m going to wager a guess that it’s only because women are typically more willing to let that little bit of truth come out. But guess what? None of us have anything to prove.

Read that again. None of us have anything to prove.

I actually just finished reading the book Nothing to Prove for the second time. It’s written by the founder of IF:Gathering, Jennie Allen. In it, she talks about enoughness and how that moment we admit that we aren’t (and believe it), we can be free. And I won’t lie that it’s taken me twice through that book to allow for some of the words to really sink in and heck, maybe I’ll read it again in a few months as a healthy reminder.

We aren’t enough. But God is.

I literally feel the most blissful exhale everytime I say that.

When I came back from the restroom, I honestly felt a moment of panic about trying to traverse the stair seats again. There was the crack of an opening to get back to my stuff and also at least four people I could topple over. And heck, if I were to topple probably more like ten would be directly impacted. And over 150 would find out about it. I do think about these things.

I finally found my opening and waited for some tiny wet swimmer to find his mom and started making my descent. I saw that same woman’s hand. I seriously couldn’t tell you what her face looked like at all because I was so focused on her hand and if I was willing enough to admit that I couldn’t do it alone. Or that I didn’t have to.

I politely said, ‘thank you,’ and I’m pretty sure I grabbed her hand so tightly that she might have regretted offering it in the first place. And I held it until I knew I was going to land safely. And most everyone will never know about that woman’s hand. Or that I took it. And that I felt deeply connected to her if nothing more than for her kindness in that very moment.

And so it is with all the other things. So. many. things. To to be clear, we can be on both sides of this. We can be the one to hold out a hand when our friend is struggling to get out of the pool. Or we can be the one to take the hand of a stranger who doesn’t want to see us get hurt. But the point is, we don’t have to do it alone. We weren’t meant to. We aren’t enough. And I do believe that it’s in those moments of the offering and the receiving that we get a glimpse of Jesus in other people. His work. His offering. His love. And I exhale that sweet breath of grace received. I’m not even close to enough. And it’s all good.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

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