|Mallard Duck in Pool|
An idea has been scurrying around in my mind as of late that has caused me to think back on those early swimming lessons. The idea is this: "What if it's easier to drown in the shallow end of the pool than in the deep end?"
While I'm all for pool safety, my concern here is metaphorical rather than literal. The real question in my mind is: "How many of our relationships flounder and fail in the shallow end of the pool because we fear that the deep end is too dark, too risky?"
Despite several summers of swimming lessons, I never became an accomplished swimmer. Still, I learned enough not to be afraid to venture into the deep end of the pool. (Admittedly, my forays into the oceans have filled me with a tinge of dread.)
I read a blog post today that I enjoyed for several reasons, but of particular interest at the moment is the connection it drew to this idea of moving from the shallows to the deeps in our relationships, whether with people or with God. Here's an excerpt:
"Shame makes me want to hide, whether it’s over a legitimate mistake or whether it’s someone else projecting their issues onto me. When I feel vulnerable and rejected, I hide.
This is not how we ought to be. Hiding my shame behind a veil is not healthy. It doesn’t protect me, any more than hiding behind fig leaves protected Adam and Eve from God after they disobeyed. Hiding is a symptom of our brokenness. Shame is the painful fall-out from our warped desire to control people."(Taken out of context, that last sentence could be misconstrued as saying that an individual's experience of shame comes from his or her own warped desire to control other people while the blogger's intent seems to be quite the opposite.)
The point is that, regardless of why one experiences shame, the solution is not to automatically sound the retreat. Certainly, in some situations that may prove necessary, but every meaningful relationship requires a degree of vulnerability such that there is a possibility of rejection and loss. Meaningful encounter and engagement requires genuine risk. If we are unwilling to take that risk, then we resort to developing more and more elaborate disguises to wear to whatever masquerade party is next on the schedule.
|Masquerade ball at Château de Hattonchâtel, France 2008|
We can (and probably should) read this is a call to acknowledge our own sense of shame and fear, and see it for what it is: a prison. We need to sense the way it subtly undermines our relationships and interactions, and find ways to overcome it.
But if we were to stop there, we wouldn't have gone far enough. We need to become more sensitized to the shame that others are experiencing and the fears that cause them to hide their true selves. We need to extend a hand, offer an embrace, and invite others to join us in the journey from the relational shallows to the deeps. We need to invite others to walk the path with us which leads to knowing and truly being known by one another, and which ultimately leads to knowing and truly being known by God.
So, I'll pose the question to myself again, and encourage you to spend some time considering it yourself as well: "How many of my relationships flounder and fail in the shallow end of the pool because I fear that the deep end is too dark, too risky?"
I know I seem to be in the minority for enjoying the film Meet Joe Black, but nevertheless I'll conclude with a clip from what always struck me as the most significant scene in the movie. No, not the scene you are thinking of. I mean this one, between Quince and Joe: