When I was young I was afraid of the water. I wasn’t terrified of the water, but I certainly wasn’t comfortable with it either. My first fearful experience with water came at about three years old. I have a vague memory of being in a pool in which my father was holding me. I remember crying and asking him to let me out. He held me and tried to reassure me that everything was alright.
At about 5 years old, I remember being out in a canoe in a pond with my dad and his friend. Once we got to the middle of the pond—which was not very big—I looked at the shore and asked if they would take me back into shore.
My fear of the water prevented me from learning how to swim. My mom took me to swim lessons at the YMCA, but I didn’t do very well. It wasn’t until I was almost 10 years old that I finally learned how to swim. Our family was swimming at Clarks Falls Pond one summer evening. My sister and I were close to the shore. She had 2 floatees on her arms. Somehow one of them fell off her arm and made its way to me. Being the nice big brother that I was, I took it and threw it into the water and laughed.
My father said, “Well, now you can go get it.”
I said, “I can’t do that. I don’t know how to swim.”
He said, “You’re going to learn how to right now!”
So, I took my sister’s remaining floatee and put it on my arm and began to make my way out there toward the other floatee. To a kid, that thing seemed like it was out there a mile. But, in reality it wasn’t very far. Slowly and fearfully, I made my way toward that orange floatee. Finally, I retrieved it and put it on my other arm and safely made my way to shore.
As I look back now, it was fear that kept me from learning how to swim. Simply put, I was afraid of drowning. That’s a legitimate fear—if you don’t know how to swim, there's a very strong likelihood that you could drown if you were suddenly thrust into the water.
For me, it wasn’t until I finally trusted my father that I finally overcame my fear of drowning and learned how to swim. What are you afraid of? Everybody is afraid of something. Some fear crowds or social gatherings, heights or even clowns (I have a child who hates them!). But, on a serious note…how about failure? Does that terrify you? Such fears cause people at best to seriously hamper their life or at worse it leads them to make very bad decisions.
As I think more deeply about my fear of swimming as a child, the underlining fear was and is a universal fear—the fear of death. Why do we fear death? Is it the unknown? Is it an insecurity that we have about our eternal destination? Perhaps, we’re not certain we’ll make it to heaven when we die.
Followers of Jesus should not fear death. Yet, many do. In Matthew 14:22-33, we find Jesus walking on water. Surprisingly, this is a cause of fear for His disciples. Fear provides Christ’s followers with an occasion for faith. Will we trust in Jesus and His promises revealed in His Word when we’re confronted with a fearful situation? Peter's response of following Jesus out on the water shows us that there are times where we’ve got to get out of the boat and onto the water.
This article is an excerpt of this past Sunday's sermon. All are welcome to join us for worship this Sunday at 9:30 am. Lighthouse Community Baptist Church is located at 22 Pequot Trail in Pawcatuck.