I eased my feet into the water slowly. Just the tops of my toes went under first, then I had to stop and take a breath. My heart pounded in my chest so loud that I felt like I was going to pass out. I looked around to see if anyone was watching me. I let my breath out heavily through puffed out cheeks. Ever so slowly my feet made contact with the step along the edge of the water. I took in three small gasps of air before I could even open my eyes.
“I can’t do this,” I thought frantically. I could feel my heart slamming in my chest and my hands were shaking beyond control. My eyes were pricking with unshed tears. I knew that all I had to do was cry out and someone would come help me. Without actually seeing them, I knew they were watching. I took a quick breath and tried to let it out slowly. I had told myself that today would be the day, the day that I would finally be able to get back in the water.
I stood there with my ankles just barely covered with water and prayed desperately for help, the kind I needed most. Almost immediately a voice filled my heart and quieted its frantic rhythm. “Daughter, remember your first love.” It was a verse I knew well, but what did it mean now? My first love? I closed my eyes and a memory came so clearly to my head that it was like watching a movie.
I was five years old and my father had taken me out on his boat for the first time. My lifejacket nearly suffocated me, but my mother absolutely insisted that I wear it the whole time I was out on the boat. Dad spent the morning pointing out the wonders of the ocean. He lived and breathed the deep blue waters. He respected it, it was part of him. When we saw a shark I had drawn back in terror, but dad gently explained that they were nothing to be afraid of. They rarely attacked people and when they did it was because they thought they were food. I was amazed and respectfully afraid. It had been a wonderful day and I vowed that one day I would be a part of it.
I opened my eyes and the memory faded. I took in the scene around me and let my shoulders slump. This wasn’t an ocean, just a controlled pool of water. I took another step down and felt the cool water lap at my knees. My heart belonged in the ocean, and I wanted desperately to be able to return. “Daughter, I do not give you a spirit of fear.” I gasped audibly. This time the voice seemed almost to be physical, as if God were beside me. Pastor Bob had just told us last week that God was always beside us, hadn’t he? With a new resolve I took anther step down. The water was at my waist. Before I could panic a new feeling took over my senses, joy! The water felt so wonderful, I could feel my spirit being healed.
I hurried up the three steps and out of the water. Mom was at my side immediately. “Honey you did wonderful, maybe next time,” she said squeezing my arm affectionately. Dad stood back a few feet, obviously hurting for me, but he didn’t say anything.
“No mom, I want to go in the deep end. I want to swim.” My huge smile convinced her, she just stepped back and let me pass. Dad was probably holding his breath, I thought .
It was sad that my father thought the accident was his fault. We had been out on his boat but really the fault was mine. I was dangling my legs into the water, even after he told me not to. He and his team were trying to film sharks, to educate people.
I stopped just at the edge of the water and looked down at my legs. The ugly purple scars were still there, but there was one thing gone now. Fear. That shark must have thought I was food, I thought. I would just have to have more respect and be more careful next time I was out in the ocean. And there would be a next time! With a joyous laugh I jumped feet first into the pool.