Strength comes as we give life to others. It’s another of the Bible’s beautiful ironies. Jesus said it this way: “Whoever would gain his life must lose it.” We’ve focused on finding strength in the Lord through 21 Days of Strength. At times, we may discover that strength–even healing–comes when we’re encouraging someone else.
I can still remember that steamy, hot August day when I experienced this truth firsthand. I was sitting beside the shallow end of our local YMCA swimming pool. Our daughter splashed happily in the waist deep water with a little girl she’d befriended a few minutes earlier. Her name was Janie. The child seemed a bit insecure and quite needy. No wonder. As I watched the interactions between Janie and her very surly father, one thing was clear. This little girl probably lived in an angry home. My heart went out to her.
Now, since our daughter was a toddler, she’d had a fear of water. Our happy and active child was fine in the shallow end of the pool but terrified to put her face in the water. A well-meaning swim instructor had once tried to “dunk” her under the water to teach her how to hold her breath. After that, my strong-willed preschooler resisted learning to swim. She informed me in no uncertain terms: “Mommy, I don’t want to swim now, or ever. And when I am a teenager, I will walk through the water.” Our family had always loved the water, so I wanted her to enjoy swimming. Plus, I couldn’t trust her to be safe in the water since she couldn’t swim.
Earlier that same summer, my husband and I had made the decision that we would enroll our daughter in the public kindergarten that coming fall, rather than the local Christian school. This decision came with lots of prayer, but also some apprehension. This was back in the days of forced busing, and our school drew from some rough neighborhoods. Quite likely, a few of our young daughter’s classmates would come from fragile and broken families. How would my five-year-old handle leaving the “cocoon?”
Deep in thought, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation next to me between two moms who were discussing how excited they were that their daughters Brittany and Sally would be kindergarten classmates at the nearby private Christian school in the fall.
My heart sank a little. Were we doing the right thing for our daughter? Should we have considered Christian school? Instead of the “Brittanies and Sallies,” our daughter would be with the “Janies”—the broken, hurting, unpredictable Janies of this world.
The two little girls continued splashing in the shallow water. Suddenly, I caught my breath as our daughter stood up up in the waist deep water and did a beautiful dolphin dive beneath the water’s surface! I sat there in awe as she began swimming under the water halfway across the pool. My “terrified to get her face wet” five-year-old emerged from the water laughing and playing, completely unaware that something of a miracle had just occurred.
I looked at my watch and realized it was exactly twelve o’clock noon. Quietly, the familiar words from one of my favorite verses, Isaiah 58:10, swept over me: “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
At exactly twelve o’clock noon, the “night” of my child’s long-standing fear of water had become as “noonday.” While she was busy loving on a little girl named Janie who needed a friend, our daughter experienced a breakthrough in a long standing fear of water. And I found my own faith strengthened, along with a sense of peace that God could be trusted as He called us to this new adventure.