Across the Pastor’s Desk: Jumping off the deep end in life

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, July 20, 2017

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Nancy Hansen

It is a hot, humid summer in 1960, much like this one.  I am 9 years old and have made a vow that I am finally going to jump off the swimming pool tower — the highest diving board in the area. I have on my lucky blue suit. I am brave. I am ready.

My friends are cheering me on as I climb the ladder to the high board.  I take one step after the other until one foot touches the slippery white of the highest diving board in the land!  I walk to the edge and let my toes overlap the board and look down into the glimmering water. My friends are yelling encouragement because I am the bravest of the lot. 

Nancy Hansen

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I want to jump. But I am also aware of the risks.  What if my feet hit the bottom of the pool so hard that I am suddenly paralyzed? The lifeguard isn’t looking at me — he is talking to that girl.  What if I drown while he is not watching me?  “Jump, jump”, my friends yell. But I cannot let go and do what my heart desires.   

The lifeguard yells loudly at the kids waiting on the ladder, “Back down, she’s not going to jump.”

I scurry back down the ladder, embarrassed.  I run and jump into the deep end and hold my breath for as long as possible. I fear everyone will tell their friends about the little girl in the blue suit that couldn’t jump off the high board. But I cannot hold my breath forever — I must return to the world above.

I rise to the top and my friends gather around.  They all want to go jump off the small diving board now. They beg me to come.  They have forgotten my humiliation. I am just like them — not brave. 

I have wanted to be brave my whole life. I have wanted to fully let go of my fears and jump into the glimmering pool of God’s promises for me. Yet sometimes, I am still the little girl who still sees the risk involved in letting go of all that keeps me upright and in control.  I look down and know that I still cannot be brave or perfect. So, I look up John 15:16. 

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.  And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Jesus went to the cross choosing us as his own and no amount of risking or letting go or giving in or doing more can bring us to God.  Rather, God has already come down to us. We have been grasped by the Father so we can be free of trying to grasp him. We are free to dive off into the deep end of love and forgiveness and thankfulness. We can let go and let God. Our AA and Al-non folks understand this. God bless them for their lessons and their lives.

Nancy Hansen is the pastor at First Lutheran Church in Glenville.