on not drowning

Posted: February 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

During my third through sixth grade years, my family lived in a tiny little town way out in the country that was a collection of about 13 houses.  One of the families in our town had an in-ground swimming pool; one summer, that family brought in an instructor to teach life-saving skills.  Because all the kids in town played in the pool, all of us who were deemed even remotely old enough to learn, took the class – I was in fifth or sixth grade and was among the pupils.

One of the first things we learned was the importance of not becoming a drowning victim while trying to save someone else.  A drowning person is dangerous, we were told.  As you try to save them, they kick and flail about.  If you approach them in the water and especially from the front, they will reach out and try to use you as a flotation device. They will drown you.  It won’t be their intention…just their unthinking, hysterical reaction to danger.

To avoid this happening, we were taught to use a long pole to save them from the side of the pool, if that was possible – just reach it out to them and let them grab on.  We were taught to toss them a flotation device – let them shove THAT under water rather than ourselves.  These were to be our primary modes of rescue, as long as the person was still able to kick and flail.

Only if we were out in open water, with no ledge to stand on and no object to extend to them, we were told, should we actually approach them before they had ingested enough water to go limp.  If we had to approach them amidst the struggle, we were taught to approach from behind and basically immobilize them.  We weren’t to be concerned with being particularly kind in our approach at this point – we were to approach quickly and quietly, immobilize them (with a specific kind of hold under the arms) before they realized what we were doing, hopefully, and then get them to the edge, hopefully with the help of others, if anyone was available.

That first lesson was a strange thing to process, at the ripe old age of 11ish.  So I’m going to try to save this person, but I need to understand that they are dangerous.  That they are not TRYING to hurt me, but still, in the process of trying to save themselves, they WILL hurt me, if I don’t protect myself.

It felt like an unfriendly thing to me, viewing the drowning person through that lens.

But had I actually ever needed to use my life-saving skills in the water, two lives may well have depended on me sticking to that truth:  the drowning person’s, and mine.

This lesson from water safety can be applied across to everyday living, if you think about it.

I’m thinking about what some have called “missionary dating”…when you choose to enter into a romantic relationship – even marriage – for the purpose of “fixing” someone who is very broken.

We don’t “fix” people by marrying them, or by dating them, or by stringing them along in hopes of such.  Generally, trying to do so is like approaching a drowning man from the front – you’re gonna get grabbed and shoved underwater, no matter how much they don’t intend to hurt you.

It’s not that there is nothing we can do.  We can stand on solid ground and extend them a sturdy pole  – friendship, a listening ear, a welcome into our community.  We can toss them a good flotation device – perhaps God’s word, shared in love and not judgment…or maybe what the 12 steppers call ESH – experience, strength, and hope.   We can even pray powerfully for them – what better way to sneak up from behind and actually give assistance?

We will do well, when attempting these forms of rescue, to remember what that swim teacher so strongly instructed:  a drowning person isn’t TRYING to hurt you.  As they flail and kick around, it is not for the purpose of harming you with intent.  One shouldn’t take it personally, when someone who is being drowned by life lashes out – it’s just someone trying to find a way to survive, fumbling, panicking, and oblivious of what it may cost others around them.

But…becoming someone’s lover or spouse to “fix” them?  This is a birthplace of enormous resentments, deep roots of bitterness, chaos and pain.  You’re as likely to drown with them as you are to save them.  Maybe more so.

There’s a reason HE is called the savior and I am not, after all.

Just sayin’.

  1. Stacy says:

    Love this blog Karen!! The funny thing about this is that people who do this don’t actually realize what they after doing. Looking back at my life i can see that i could have been in danger of doing this a couple times. I’m so blessed that God has been faithful, pulling me out of each of these situations.

  2. karen says:

    Thanks Stacy! I know a lot of them don’t realize it…but then sometimes you hear people actually SAYING something like, “I will fix him.” Maybe one person somewhere sometime will get the message and not go there? Can always hope.

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