We have a large community pool in our internationally diverse neighborhood. It's meticulously maintained but, people rarely swim in it.
Being rather unconventional parents, Pete and I will often squeeze in an hour or two of swimming with the kids in the evenings. (It's somehow more exciting to swim after dark!) This particular pool is only 3 feet deep on each end, gradually sloping to 4 feet until it reaches 5 feet deep in the center.
Recently, Brogan (13) and Hezekiah (only 7 - but a STRONG swimmer) talked their dad into a dip in the pool and I decided to join them a bit later. Pete was reading by the side of the pool and watching the boys. I arrived in my t-shirt, jeans and sandals. Brogan asked me to fix something on his hand-me-down cell phone, so I sat down in a lounge chair next to Pete.
Apparently, the foreign born mom with two young kids was there ALONE when Pete and the boys arrived. She was walking (for exercise?) around the pool while watching her 8-9 year old daughter and 3-4 year old son swim. It may not have been English, but it was clear she was admonishing them to stay in the shallow end. Like normal kids, they were 'semi-ignoring' her. I went from glancing at her kids to watching them intently. I could not understand exactly WHAT they were saying to their mom - but I could hear the increasing panic in their voices: LOUD and CLEAR. Just as I said softly to Pete, "Are they okay?" - their mom locked eyes with me and desperately yelped, in English: "PLEASE HELP!" It was VERY clear she was beyond terrified and NOT about to get in that pool.
At this point, I faced a terrible dilemma. Before you JUDGE me, hear me out:
1. I was warm, dry and fully clothed. I was relaxing.
It would be uncomfortable, inconvenient, maybe even awkward and simply not part of MY plan for MY life at that moment to get involved. I was not PREPARED to save anyone. I didn't FEEL like getting wet. I was not wearing a swimsuit. I had no idea what the temperature of the water was or the PH levels. Heck, I had my glasses on! And - to be blunt - my hair does not look great wet.
2. I was not their mother.
Their mother was there. Clearly she could not swim. But it was HER job to protect them, right? She knew the risk. This was how she was CHOOSING to parent them.
3. I did not even know them.
Did I even have the right to intervene? People make their own choices in life, good AND bad. I had not built any 'relational equity'...yet. I needed more time! Maybe I could help them more effectively later.
4. People might see me and not understand or agree with any action I might take.
I did not really have the time or energy to consider whether or not it was politically correct to DO anything. What might my neighbors think? When the word got around, I could get labeled or criticized. People might talk about me or STOP talking to me.
5. I might fail.
What if I took the risk and was NOT able to help them? If I was not 100% SURE I could 'save them' - was I really called to even TRY? God was not making it clear what He wanted me to do. Or when or how. Maybe I should have sought wise counsel? Prayed about it? Checked the Helps section in my bible for revelation?
6. I might offend them or their mother.
Would it be culturally insensitive - even downright offensive - to assume they needed or wanted my help? What if I went about it the wrong way? Maybe I was totally misinterpreting the whole situation.
7. I might hurt or embarrass myself.
After all, I am not a trained life guard. While I DO know how to swim and I AM over 5 feet tall, I COULD screw up somehow and embarrass myself - and my entire family. What if I hurt them in the process? I might even get hurt and how would that/could that affect me AND my family? Did I have time to check and recheck my motives?! There were too many scenarios to consider. I could not be absolutely sure it was worth the risk. Maybe if I had more formal training? If it was my paid profession? If only I had time to form a team to help me decide what to do!
8. I had my own kids to watch.
Aren't MY kids - my family members - my #1 priority? After all, they have been given to me by God himself and I have a responsibility to care for them.
9. Isn't this the job of a real lifeguard? What about Pete?
Honestly, there IS a Home Owner's Association. They should have a lifeguard on duty who knows the 'curriculum' by heart regarding what to do in each and every situation. And, really...Pete is bigger and stronger than me - HE should "do something!" Far be it for me to stand in the way of what God might be calling him to do!
10. I simply didn't feel like it was urgent...ENOUGH.
Maybe I should just let them try to figure it out. Surely, God - or "a" god - out of great love and mercy would reveal a solution to these children. To their mother? Through nature or a miracle? Maybe a stranger would miraculously show up and save the day? I could mess things up if I misjudged His timing. (Someone once told me: "The need does not always justify the call." Hmmm?) OH! Wait...I could just pray for them! That would be safe and appropriate. I could call others to pray for them - add them to prayer CHAINS. Maybe their mom would even find comfort if I LITERALLY hit my knees - and prayed - OUT LOUD?! If only I could think of a verse that would provide hope or comfort?! I could throw my hands in the air...and find meaningful worship music for inspiration on Brogan's phone? Oh, stink! I did not have the FUNDS to pay to download any music. If I had more money. More time. More knowledge. More courage?
SO, YOU SEE - I had an agonizing dilemma.
All I could do was watch them drown.
I guess I could have left quickly and retreated into the comfort of my own home.
If I didn't SEE them struggling, then it would not seem real oreven possible, right?
NOTE: Before I go any further, you MUST know that I am ONLY sharing any of this because of how it CONVICTED me... NOT AT ALL because of anything I did.
SO...What DID I do? Well, you probably already guessed that I did NOT watch them drown. In fact, I jumped into the pool before Pete could even look up or answer my question. I did not think twice about my clothes or my glasses or the phone in my hand. (Fortunately for Brogan, I dropped it on the chair without even realizing it. Whew!) My only goal was to get to those kids as quickly as possible. I was not SURE I could save them - but, I was SURE going to try.
I did get to them in time. Got them both out of the pool. They were scared, but okay. Mom was grateful and relieved. I did not want to think about what she would or would not have done if no one had been there!
(FYI: It feels weird to swim in jeans!)
THE HARDEST LESSON FOR ME: Why do I NOT look at the people all around me who do NOT know Jesus (including dearly loved family members!) and NOT see them as lost souls in need of SOMEONE to do SOMETHING to help them?! Why do I NOT see their situations as SERIOUS and LIFE THREATENING? Why do I hide behind 'socially acceptable" excuses to - literally - do NOTHING when people around me are in desperate need of a Savior? If they were PHYSICALLY drowning, I know I would act. They ARE spiritually, eternally drowning and I _________________?!
Lori (847) 650-7144
Pete (847) 650-8022
Our Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are an ordinary family simply trying to follow where He leads. We want YOU to see the amazing things HE is doing...