The Rope Swing

We are almost to the end of the school year, and we’re exhausted. This year has had its highs and lows and, honestly, I’m ready for summer. So many times in years past we get to the very end of the school calendar and I find myself sad and not wanting to admit the obvious; another year has passed us by.

But not this year.

I’m not completely sure why, but I think I’ll be doing a happy dance once the last bubble is colored in on the last scantron.   Once the last assignment is turned in, the backpack is put away for the summer, and my son’s car pulls in the driveway for the last time of his junior year, we are going to form a conga line and dance around the house! It has been that kind of year and I am not sorry to see it end.

We’ve worked hard, played hard and now it’s time for sweet summertime.

It’s a time for feasting on watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, squash, peas and okra; my mouth is watering just thinking about it. There are not too many things much sweeter than the long days of summer; empty days just begging to be filled with camps, fishing, swimming, lazy hours and late nights. I can remember as a kid being gone many a summer day only to return home for food or drink; the whole day without a hint of a schedule or a single spelling word.

It was Heaven.

We had a creek near our home as a child; we called it “Pond Creek.” I have no idea if that was really the name of the little river we swam in, but we fondly called it that and everyone seemed to know what we were talking about. The most distinct childhood memory I have of this place was how extremely cold the water felt. I have thought about going back as an adult and putting a thermometer into its swirls and swishes to see how cold its waters run.   Why is it that cold temperatures are so much more bearable as a kid? I cannot even imagine sticking my big toe into it today, much less submerging my whole body.

I get chills just thinking about it.

But, swim we did. We swam and played and swung out over the murky water on a rope tied to one of its bouncy branches. I’m sure as we swung out from the bank it must’ve looked like an orangutan’s poor attempt to swing from one tree to the next. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. As soon as your feet left solid ground, you felt the wind in your face and your legs dangling beneath you. If you were brave enough to look down you’d see the water passing swiftly below you and then your heart rate doubled. Finally, when the rope was at its farthest point, the time came to let go, you released your hands and plummeted the twenty or more feet into the icy cold bath awaiting you.

It was exhilaration like none other.

Once you hit the water, you went into immediate frozen shock from the drastic change in temperature. Or at least that’s how it felt. But, that was no matter; all that crossed your mind was getting out and doing it again. Oh, there was fear, but the excitement and the sheer fun outweighed the risks.

I think that’s what it must be like to live fearlessly.

To be willing to stand on the edge of the life’s “bank” and jump into that decision that is so daunting, or that relationship that has been so hard but worth it, or the new job that seems overwhelming. Facing and jumping into the fear, understanding that it will feel like a crazy ride, but when you let go the cold exhilarating water and the sweet taste of success will be worth all the stress and work.

But, first you have to jump.

I remember one time during those carefree days I jumped and I was too afraid to let go of the rope. (I know you cringed as you read that last sentence. Maybe some of you have held on to the rope too long too.) I was horrified of the fall but it didn’t dawn on me until it was too late that hanging on would hurt more.

I went swinging out over the open water with all my good buddies on the bank chanting “let go, let go!” But I was too afraid, so I squeezed the rope even tighter. My knuckles turned white and all the oxygen left my lungs. I could hear the scream that escaped me, but I didn’t actually remember telling myself to scream. I was having a kind of out of body or maybe mind experience.

But, the rope does not care that you’re scared, it just keeps swinging.

Once it reached its farthest point and started the quick return, and with “let go” hammering in my ears, I resolved to ride the thing back to safety. But, I quickly found out that it doesn’t work that way. Oh, I made it back to the bank, but not quite close enough to put my feet on solid ground before I went back in the opposite direction.   Back and forth, this cycle repeated itself until I was suspended in midair.

Hanging there, I thought in my childlike mind, “I’M GOING TO DIE!”

It wasn’t until I had no more strength in my hands to hold me up that I HAD to let go. I hit the water in a sprawling position grasping desperately at thin air in hopes to soften my landing. Yes, I think you know how this ended;, belly flop of all belly flops. It stung like the dickens and my hands hurt from the knuckle white exertion.

But, I did it, and in that moment, that’s all that really mattered.

As my head emerged from the dirty creek water, I could hear my friends at the top of the bank cheering for me and beckoning me to come up and try again. I’ve decided that is one of the sweetest sounds on earth, friends cheering you on even in your most humbling and ungraceful moments. So, shivering from the cold and teeth chattering, I swam to the bank and started the climb back up to the beginning.

Thanks to the encouragement of another, I didn’t give up.

By my next turn it was a little easier to let go, and the ride down to the water’s surface was less eventful. And the time after that was even better until I was one of the ones on the bank calling out to other swingers, “let go, let go!”

Sometimes fearless doesn’t look like abandon.

Sometimes it looks like trying again and again until we start to get it right.

Whatever is in your life these days, don’t give up on it. Keep trying and praying for God to give you courage and strength to come up out of the water and climb the steep bank again. And when it’s finally your turn and your feet leave the bank and the wind is blowing in your face, remember…

“Let go.”

God will be there and he will help you to face whatever is at the bottom or whatever it is you’re swinging into. You won’t be alone.

Trust me, practice makes perfect.

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