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The summer when my youngest son Noah was 3 years old, I took him to the YMCA for swimming lessons.  From day one, he was the kid who always wanted to swim instead of listen.  As the teacher talked, Noah would swim under the water to the other side of the pool!  The teacher became so exasperated with Noah always “swimming away,” she flunked him.

Realizing that Noah wasn’t going to learn anything at the YMCA, I decided to take him to a Park Department pool where I hoped he could, at least, pass the swim class.  At this pool, moms were required to be in the water with their children.  “This will work well,” I thought.  “I can control Noah better.”

On the first day in that class as I shivered in the cold water with Noah by my side, the other moms listened to instructions on how to help their kids learn to swim.  Before the teacher even finished a single sentence, Noah let go of my hand and swam under the water to the other side of the pool!  I tried to laugh it off because maybe the teacher didn’t notice, but she did.  I had to get out of the water and go and get Noah and bring him back.

The other little kids in Noah’s class couldn’t/wouldn’t put their heads under water without yelling or crying.  They flapped their arms and kicked their legs, but couldn’t/wouldn’t even begin to stay afloat.  Their moms kept encouraging them ever so sweetly while I continued to chase Noah across the pool.  Needless to say, Noah flunked this swimming class as well!

At this point, I decided that Noah was “gifted” in swimming, and it didn’t matter if he earned a minnow certificate or not.  So I took him back to the YMCA for the rest of that summer and let him swim to his heart’s content.  Other moms had to be in the water with their little kids, but not me.  Noah was a fish without fins!

One day that summer Noah discovered the diving board at the deep end.  The YMCA employed a lifeguard whose sole purpose was to “watch” the diving board.  The kids would wait in a line behind the board and only one child at a time could be on the board.  Until that child jumped or dove off and swam to the ladder at the side of the pool, the other children had to wait.  Now when I say “children,” I mean older kids and teens.   No 3-year-olds ever wanted to dive!

Noah decided to give diving a try, and I anxiously watched as his turn came.  He ran out to the end of the board, jumped once, and actually dove in!  But when Noah didn’t pop up quickly from the water as the other kids had done, the lifeguard stood ready to “save” Noah.  Instead, though, she saw him doing the “dead man’s float.”  Noah then swam under water to the side of the pool, climbed up the ladder, and laughed, “I tricked you.”  The lifeguard was not happy with my little fish, and the pride I felt in watching Noah’s first dive quickly sank.

The rest of that summer Noah occasionally played this “diving game.”  Sometimes he popped up but then swam under water; sometimes he didn’t pop up until he reached the ladder.  Every time he did this, the lifeguard stood ready to save Noah.  After about a week or so, the lifeguard had a talk with me.  “Ma’am, if your son continues with this nonsense, he’ll be banned from the diving board.”  So Noah and I had a long talk and he stopped his diving game – unless and until a new lifeguard came on duty.  Then Noah somehow forgot the rules and would do the same thing and not pop up and swim under water, and always say “I tricked you” after he reached the ladder.

When Noah was 15 years old, he actually became a lifeguard.  He was employed at a neighborhood pool and spent most of his time swimming with the kids.  He then became the head lifeguard at the pool, and I wanted to go back to his swim instructors when he was 3 years old and tell them, “Shame on you!  Noah turned out just fine!”

Lifeguard Cartoon
source: Joe Brown Art

Thinking about this time in Noah’s life causes me to wonder how many times in our lives have we been “tricked” by someone or something?  You know what I mean – if only I lost ten pounds, I would look good.  If only I had a new car, I would be happy.  If only that person was my friend, I would be accepted.  If only I had a different job, I would be complete.  Those “if onlys” are not necessarily bad, but without any of them we should still be happy and accepted and complete.  Plus, we already look good in the eyes of God!

Satan likes to “trick” us into thinking that the “if onlys” in life will make us whole.  But the opposite is true.  Joy, self-worth, and identity in people, places, or things will never be fulfilling.  Something brighter or better always comes along, and we’ll soon begin to think, I would have it made . . . if only.

The only “if only” that can supply the missing part in our soul is Jesus.   He never tricks us into thinking we need more than what He offers in order to be fulfilled.  We simply need to understand that He died to give us peace and to forgive us of our past, present and future sins.  Then when we go to Heaven, we’ll be holy and righteous and redeemed for eternity with God.

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If Satan has tricked you into believing what the world proclaims – that if you only had more, you would be happy and accepted and complete – then swim toward the ladder and reach for the Lifeguard.  If you’ll but ask, Jesus is ready, willing, and able to save you, just as the lifeguard was ready, willing, and able to save Noah.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.”  (Romans 10:9-11 NLV)