Leaping from the Gutter

I got to watch a dad and his two sons splashing around in the swimming pool. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. It turned out, the father wanted the kids to learn more than just splash around. He was trying to tell son number one (for purposes of discussion, let’s just call him son number one, okay?) to finally get off the steps at the shallow end and jump into his waiting arms (or one arm. The other son was in his other arm).

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“Jump! Jump!” he told his son.

It’s an all too familiar metaphor for faith. The father urging the son to jump. To let go. As Wicked popularized, to close one’s eyes and leap. We’ve probably heard it said and preached. You’ve probably heard your retreat master use it as the ending to his rousing sermon. We’ve probably used it ourselves when trying to convey a point.

While the metaphor is clear and relatable (warm and homey, even), how it applies to real life is always tougher. Maybe it’s because we see the Father (God in the Metaphor) as someone who has not jumped from the shallow end to the scary, deeper end that might be filled with monsters (when you’re a kid, every dark and un unexplored place has monsters. Well, when you grow up, I guess that doesn’t stop). That the Father figure never had to doubt his ability to hold his breath. To ask survival questions like “will I rise again?” Or “What if I jump too far from the gutter? Can I still make it back?” He, after all, is omnipotent.

The kid in the pool probably saw his dad as pretty omnipotent, too (We usually see dads and moms as God until we mature enough to be more merciful). He was, after all, chest and head above the water. His footing was most probably secure on the pool’s bottom. Heck, maybe dad even owned the pool! (The pool was public space.)

Did he lack faith? I asked myself that question as I tried to cheer the kid on through telepathy. Come on kid. Dad won’t drop you. He’ll die first before he’ll let anything happen to you. I’m sure the kid knew the dad loved him. He was smiling. He wanted to please his dad. But he was struggling between his fear and his love. Much like most of us.

Then the other brother leapt from his dad’s arm, back to the gutter. This other brother said, “Come on.” Then this other brother leapt again, this time, back to his dad’s arms. The dad said, “O, your brother did it!” Then after a while, he jumped. I knew he did, because I found him on the other side of the pool to continue his training later on.

That was probably a more accurate metaphor.

The other brother was more relatable to the first brother. Surely, this guy was afraid before. Surely, this guy would drown if daddy dropped him. We’re almost the same height. We have almost the same fears. Of course! We play together! I know he’s not that different from me! Maybe I can jump, too! And look how he trusted daddy.

Then I saw the passages from the book of Hebrews in a new light. This had been preached to us before many times, too (In fact, just last Sunday for me. Maybe that’s why it was at the top of my head. You can check it out when you have the time – Hebrews 3,4,5-ish.). It talks about how Jesus paid for our sins in full. How we can rest in that act that he did once and for all. But more than that – it talks about how Jesus became fully like us – in our weaknesses, in being tempted, in the fact that he took a crap like us, the fact that he pissed like us, the fact that he also got irritated by traffic (maybe it was of a different kind during his day. Maybe animals and foot traffic near the gates. Hey.).

He was and is the other brother. Who proves to us that God is not distant. That he himself felt our eternal yet everyday struggle of being pulled by two gravitational forces: fear and love. But he chose love. And leapt.

I saw the dad and two sons have a lot more training sessions throughout the afternoon. One exercise was for both kids to hold on to his hands and kick (that means make your feet like an engine for those of us who don’t swim). Son number one tried his best that day. Sure, he still felt nervous every time before he leapt from gutters into his dad’s waiting arm. But the other son always made sure to teach son number one how. Sure, Son number one drank a bit of water. He laughed through his nervousness. Sometimes he just shouted. But he held on to his dad’s arm when he called.

As we remember our Brother’s birth, and as we head into this new year, it might be helpful to be reminded, to rest – (not in the commercialised Boracay-Maui-Hotel Bathtub sense, but to give up control in trust. That is what you do when you sleep right? You just suddenly lose control and trust the mattress and pillow.) – in the fact that He has shown us how to jump into the Father’s arms.