What is the sink or swim meaning? I can tell you that I learned the most literal form of sink or swim and it all made perfectly good sense to me. This past weekend I took my son to his swim class. Once he went into the class I noticed that his teacher took the students to the deepest end of the pool. As a mother I was a little panic, knowing that my son could not swim that well yet and had never been to the deep end of the pool. Once it was my son’s turn, the teacher assisted him in swimming. She led him about 15 feet out from the edge of the pool, assisting him in his technique along the way. She turned him around and left it up to my son to swim back to the edge of the pool.
Once my son saw that he was no longer being assisted he began to sink. His teacher DID NOT help him. I saw him grabbing the rope and splashing around, trying to make his way back to the edge of the pool. Pure panic on his face. There was pure panic on my face. And then all of a sudden, he figured out a way to “swim” with a combination of kicking his legs and moving his arms to the point that he made it to the edge of the pool. And was extremely proud of himself when he did so. Please note that up to this point his teacher had provided him with the tools that he needed to swim. Although he had never been to the deep end of the pool, he had been taught to float and swim in the shallow in the pool. This was the moment his teacher wanted him to see him put his skills into action.
Now that you have a very literal metaphor of what to sink or to swim means, I know for a fact I can apply this to your situation. Like I said my son knew how to swim. Although he had never implemented those skills he was previously given the tools that he needed to stay afloat. I am convinced that when most people are given the option to sink or swim they will choose to swim. But the key is that they have to be put in the right situation at the right time in order to swim. Look at my son for example, he could have chosen to stay under the water, scream for his mother, or cry and get out of the pool. I could have chosen to come and rescue him, scream at the teacher, or panic. But what purpose would that serve? It would have just enabled him and he would never learned what he I KNEW he was capable of.
The point to this story is that sometimes when faced with a difficult situation we have to learn to swim. We can sit out in the water, panicking, drowning, and going under OR we can kick and do whatever we need to do to get to the edge of the pool and back to safety. Sometimes when we feel we will sink we blame God for allowing us to drown, we blame family, co-workers, friends, the world, our situation; we blame everyone and just sit and drown. When the point of us going through something is NOT for us to drown, but it is for us to learn to use the skills that we have been and swim.
Like my son, even though he was freaked out, he learned a valuable lesson. He is no longer a level 1 or 2 swimmer. Gone are the days where he is walking around in 2 feet of water. Because he chose to fight through the fear that he once felt in deeper water, he is now a level 5 and deep water does not bother him anymore. He was able to get through the fear of the unfamiliar and master his fear. He chose to swim, not only did he choose to swim but he chose to get better at swimming. He no longer expects his swim teacher to come to him every time he has a hard time. Just like God cannot come to our rescue every time we have a hard time. At one point we have to learn to swim!
Sometimes it is not about asking God to take our situation away, it is about us learning how to cope with our own stuff and learning how to deal with it. One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Screw Tape Letter.
“God leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. God wants humans to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased
even with their stumbles….”
~ The Screwtape Letters
This is a powerful statement. It basically says that God will cuddle us but it comes a time when all that cuddling needs to stop and we need to learn how to stand on our own two legs and walk on our own. It is not that God does not love us, but when he withdraws Himself and we begin doing on our own, we begin to implement the skills that God has taught us along the way. It is strengthening our character. Like my son he literally “stumbled” his way to the edge of the pool with some type of swimming technique that he created in the panic of the moment. But the point is, he got there. It may have not been the back stroke or the breast stroke but he got himself to the edge of the pool to prevent himself from drowning. Which in turn built his confidence.
My hope for all of you is that you do not let your situation overwhelm you. AND more importantly because you are going through something do not think for a second that God has forsaken you. The only thing He wants to do is make you strong, He wants to prevent you from drowning, He wants to build your character and your faith and teach you to swim. So that when hard times come, when you are broke, jobless, under paid, lonely, or depressed you do not get too overwhelmed by your situation because you know that you NOT will drown. It does not matter if you have to do a dead man’s float all the way until you get to safety, as long as you get to safety.
“For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 11-13
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