The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13: 6 (NIV)
I enjoy watching children playing in the pool. Their carefree and fun loving nature, their lack of fear and their infectious laughter is delightful to watch. Occasionally there will be one or two children who will jump into the pool with a big splash and then followed by a chorus of laughter from the rest. They were obviously having fun. If only I can do that! I mean, jump into the pool. You see, I can’t swim. I am afraid of the water. At times I wish that I could just forget my fear and jump into the pool and enjoy the water like they did.
Recently I was at the Chinese Swimming Club for a meal at the cafe with my former classmates from Kuo Chuan Girls’ School. As I walked past the swimming pool, memories of my attempts to learn swimming at that same pool (now upgraded) came flooding back. I tried to learn swimming during my early secondary school days and had a classmate for company, but I never succeeded. My lack of confidence in the water was just too overwhelming. I could not let go of my fear so I gave up after a few attempts and never went back to the pool.
Fear can indeed be crippling, and a hindrance to meaningful achievements in life. I have been battling different kinds of fear throughout my life – fear of lizards, fear of changes, fear of not being able to do something well enough, fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, fear of failure… the list can go on. Being locked in fear adds a very heavy burden to the heart. It robs us of the joy of living and stifles the spirit of adventure. It can also be disabling if it affects our daily life. We will tend to live in constant worry and anxiety.
Thankfully we have a loving Heavenly Father whom we can turn to. He has slowly and gently drawn me out of my cave of fear, a step at a time and an issue at a time. With His help and grace I have slowly and painfully taken steps to come out of my comfort zone.
I recall a major milestone in my life when God was my Helper and Provider. He walked me through the journey from fear to victory. It was a life-transforming experience for me.
I was then in my early thirties and posted to work in the training department. The greatest joy of the posting was being able to work together with three of my social work buddies, my bosom pals and godly Christian sisters, after working ten years in the same ministry in the Civil Service. So we were good friends and colleagues at the same time. It was a blessing we were all grateful to God for.
Soon after, two of them took up swimming lessons at the Civil Service Club after office hours. They had the same coach and made wonderful progress within a short time. After each lesson they would give me an update of their learning experience and a glowing report of the coach who challenged them with new learning targets each week. They were excited when they shared their weekly achievements and they urged me to take up swimming lessons with their coach. With their persistent persuasion and encouragement, I finally caved in. Making the decision to join them in their new interest was probably my bravest first step, considering my past failure. What came after that was a pains-taking and long-drawn journey.
I didn’t get my friends’ coach. He couldn’t take me on. I had a tall and lanky young coach called Mr Chang, the quiet and patient Mr Chang. I thank God for assigning me to Mr Chang. As I reflected on my experience at the pool I know I wouldn’t have survived if I had taken on my friends’ coach. For three months or more I was clinging to the side of the pool. Week after week I practised my kicking (learning breast stroke actually) without leaving the side of the pool. I had no courage to let go of my comfort zone but I did make a wee bit of progress. I could dip my head into the water with my goggles on without feeling overwhelmed. I think many target-driven coaches would have given up on me, but not Mr Chang! He said nothing. He simply watched from the side week after week. One evening I had a new companion in the pool, also a student of Mr Chang. I thought she was like me but after a couple of weeks she used a float and started paddling away from the side of the pool. She became my inspiration and motivation. I borrowed her float and moved away from the side of the pool too. That breakthrough didn’t escape the watchful eyes of Mr Chang. He immediately jumped into the pool punching his fist in the air. He was celebrating my progress. It must have been a relief for him. Then he taught me the next step and I continued to practice diligently what he had taught me within a small corner of the pool. I was slow in making progress but I persevered and Mr Chang didn’t give up on me. One evening the magic happened! I was at the pool earlier than my friends and Mr Chang. I started practising my strokes and before I knew it I was moving in the water, swimming from one end of the breadth of the pool to the other. Mr Chang saw that. He must have heaved a sigh of relief. His weakest student has finally made it. It was such a sweet victorious experience for me, victory over fear. It is an unforgettable milestone in my life, and more than that, I will never forget how God made it possible for me to make the break-through. God has been watching over me just as Mr Chang was quietly watching my progress. God gave me time to overcome my fear just as Mr Chang gave me time to learn at my own pace. God knows my needs and my weaknesses and He puts people in place – my friends and Mr Chang, to make the journey possible – the journey from fear to victory. How long I took to cross the line is not important, what is more important is that with God’s help I made the crossover.
Psalm 139: 1-2 “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all ways.” (NIV)
I share this experience to encourage you, dear readers, to pay attention to what God is doing in your life. He loves you and He has redeemed you with the precious blood of His one and only Son Jesus Christ. You are His precious in His sight, a special people called to be holy, called to serve and glorify Him. Would you allow Him to shape and nurture you as His instruments for His Kingdom purpose and for His glory? Would you be willing to take the plunge when He stretches out His hand to invite you to take the journey that will transform your life – from fear to victory, so that He can work out His will and purpose in and through you? Dare to take the plunge, and know that at all times and in all ways the Lord is good.