Carrie Carter ~ When You Feel Like You're Drowning

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Have you ever had a near-drowning experience?

I have. I don’t remember when, but I’d guess I was between the ages of seven and nine. I don’t remember the circumstances, except that I was in over my head. Literally. What I can remember is the feeling of not being able to breathe and the panic that completely took over any ability for reasoning. I mean, everyone was told (way back in my childhood days) that once you go under for the third time, you die.

I’m still here.

I got back into the pool (not that day, but eventually) and my Daddy taught me to swim. He didn’t start by teaching me the intricate techniques of the breaststroke or how to get the best speed out of the butterfly stroke; he started by teaching me to float.

“Stop thrashing around and relax.”

I didn’t trust him. There was no way I was going to allow the water to fill my nostrils and lungs, squeezing out the precious breath of life. When I floated, the water covered my ears and crept closer to my nose than with what I felt comfortable.

I fought. I whined. I clung to the edge of the pool. It was a long summer, while I hung out on the pool steps, watching my cousins pretend to be dolphins and mermaids.

Finally, my desire to also be a dolphin overcame my fear of water in my nose and I remember lying flat on my back, bobbing in the water. My eyes were squinched shut, my lips were a tight pink line and I held my breath until I thought my lungs would burst.

“Relax and breathe.”

“I can’t breathe! I don’t want water in my nose!” Of course, the exhale it required to answer indignantly forced the need to inhale.

“Relax and breathe.”

So, to prove that breathing while floating on my back was to bring about inevitable death, I did. I inhaled deeply. Through my nose. That’ll show him.

Nothing happened, except for the feeling of pre-teen sheepishness.

How many times have I been drowning in circumstances, situations out of my control, relational pain, just life? I can’t breathe and end up going into panic mode; anyone who tries to help me puts their own life at risk, because I’m flailing around and so in-over-my-head that I couldn’t act rationally if my life depended on it.

And it does.

“Relax and breathe.”

God wants me to trust him. He wants me to stop trying to save myself from my circumstances and instead to lie back, relax, breathe through my nose, and trust him. Just float.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NASB)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NASB)

It’s not an easy choice. Mostly because I think I can control my life better than anyone; however, it’s in those moments, when God gives me the ability to step back and see “me,” the “me” that’s irrationally thrashing and flailing and sputtering, that I realize my life is completely out of my control, but never out of his control (cue feelings of adult sheepishness).

“Relax and breathe.”

By that summer’s end, I was a member of my cousins’ dolphin pod and would’ve made Flipper proud.

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Carrie Carter is a slightly quirky pastor’s wife and mom of two teenage boys. She enjoys normal things like writing, her pets, wind whistling in the pines and spending time with her friends and family. She is amused by unexpected things like self-written obituaries and clothes-wearing taxidermy.

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