“What If I Gave Everything” is a song by Casting Crowns and a question I think all of us should ask ourselves. This is the time of year I tend to become a bit contemplative. The summer is drawing to a close. The fall season has always created a sense of “new beginnings” in me.

The kids are headed back to another year of school. Remember all those thoughts and feelings you experienced at the time? I used to teach second grade, and I remember standing in front of a room full of brand new faces, realizing we would spend a lot of our lives together for the next nine months. I imagine they were having similar thoughts. New beginnings are a good time to look forward with new expectations.

“What If I Gave Everything” reminds me of an illustration I use. I talk about my grandkids learning to swim in our pool. They are covered with sunscreen, equipped with floaties, and watched carefully by one of us every minute. They play happily on the steps and never leave the shallow end of the pool. They become a little more comfortable in the water each summer. One day, I hope to watch them swim in the deep end of the pool, knowing they are completely able. I talk about my love for the beach. I love the feeling of the sand between my toes, the sound of crashing waves, and I remember the MANY times I swam out into those waters. I never lost sight of the shore, but I also knew that I was treading water where I was.

The point of the illustration is this: Our Christian lives are a lot like learning to swim. At first, it is important to have someone or something holding us up, making sure we are safe. Before long, we can let go of those helps because we have learned to get to the other side on our own. Eventually, we are comfortable in the deep end of the pool.

But, there is another way to swim as well. God eventually calls us out into the ocean. The waves crash around us and move us in new directions. Sometimes we ride the waves and sometimes we swim against them. Every now and then, if we don’t heed the warnings, we can find ourselves caught in a riptide that threatens to carry us where we don’t want to go. Swimming in the ocean isn’t the safest place to be, but it is by far God’s “bigger picture.” I usually close that illustration by saying, “God calls us out of the pool and into the deeper waters—because that is the only place we find the fish.”

I hope you will take some time to listen to the song, and you will understand the purpose of this blog post. I think too many Christians are happy swimming in the pool. They go to church (the pool) and maybe they even serve the church (the deep end of the pool.) But if they never leave the pool, they won’t be where the fish are swimming. We might “catch” those the other members bring to swim, but most of the fish are in deeper ocean waters.

I’m beginning to think and pray about the new year of Bible study I will be teaching. I’m not one to teach the “shallow water” lessons. I’m asking God to use me this year to encourage the people I teach to swim into the deep waters. But there is a warning to all those who take that leap: those deep waters require us to stay in shape and know when we are getting tired. That is when God calls us to swim back to the shore and renew our strength.

Bible study does that for me. Scripture says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:4–6).

Are you willing to be a deepwater Christian, living a witness that requires endurance? Do you know enough to handle the waves? The sharks? The occasional riptide? If the answer is no, then the next question has to be, are you willing to learn? If the answer is yes, then the question is, “Are you content to wade on the shore or will you swim out into the waves?”

The good news for all of us is that we always have a lifeguard on duty. I’ve been caught in a riptide before, and the only way out is to swim at an angle and head to the shore. Or, even better, wave until the lifeguard spots you and hauls you to safety. I’ve done both!

Pray for the kids you know who are headed back for another year. One of the things I have learned working on our ChristianParenting.org site is that most school campuses require “strong swimmers.” Christian kids are definitely swimming against the tide right now. Actually, all of us are . . . unless we are spending all of our time at the pool.

What has the Lord said to you as you’ve read this blog? Take a minute to pray and allow God to keep speaking. He is a great swim coach to those who will join the team.

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