August 28, 2014
One of my jobs this summer at Pine Cove was lifeguarding at Lake Shalom. This meant long days in the “warm” Texas sun getting my toes nibbled on by fish, fighting to stay awake in the “isolation” chair on shore, pretending to be Jaws and pulling kids off the inflatables and our personal favorite…working the blob.
Think Heavyweights, but much much tamer. I would venture to say that the Pine Cove blob is the safest blob around due to the number of rules and trained lifeguarding eyes stationed around it. I would also argue to say this made it the least fun blob around, but I’m sure parents wouldn’t complain.
It didn’t take me long to start seeing a pattern on the blob stand.
On opening night of camp when I asked campers what they were most excited about, “the blob” was a very common answer. Sure enough, when they came to the lake later in the week, I would struggle to keep them off the dock while I explained the rules because they were so eager to get in line. Not to mention that whole “walk, don’t run” rule that lifeguards love so much.
They came. They saw. They climbed. They froze.
And this is where I would sigh and watch the inner battle of fear vs. courage work through their minds and lead them to either victory or defeat.
The stand that looked so fun and appealing from shore suddenly appears to be looming over the blob at a fatal height. I would always explain to them that it’s not as high as it looks and in fact, I could stand on the blob and touch the stand at the same time. But it’s too late by then.
Once they make the mistake of hesitating at the top, no amount of logic will convince them otherwise. And as the clock ticks, the chances of them actually jumping go down with every passing minute.
First they begin to look for distractions to stall.
“The blob is moving back and forth! I have to wait until it’s back underneath me!” Actually, the blob is twice the width of you..I don’t think you’ll miss.
“Can I spray the lifeguard with the hose?” Nope, I already did that while you were climbing the stairs, but nice try.
“Woah! Did you just see that guy do the flip off the diving board at the pool?” No, because I’m not guarding the pool right now and neither are you.
Then come the excuses.
“I don’t want so-and-so to blob me” You were fine with them blobbing you when you got in line in front of them.
“I don’t want to get my hair wet.”
“I don’t wanna be sprayed with the hose.”
“I can’t control how I land.”
Finally, my personal favorite: the worst-case scenarios.
“What if I fall off or miss?” It’s a good thing we put the blob in water and not on land.
“What if it hurts when I get blobbed off?” Congratulations! Pain usually results from a good blob.
“What if I slide off the end?” This is a blob of second chances.
“What if I die?” Then I hope you’ve been paying attention to Bible Study this week.
This one would get a little tricky when their worst-case scenarios were actually personal stories from years past. Trying to explain that history doesn’t always repeat itself to a kid with bad memories of a bitten tongue is about as easy as explaining it to an adult with bad memories of a broken heart. Easy to say, hard to believe.
At this point, I usually give them a last chance warning and remind them of their options: jump off the stand or walk down the stairs and try again later.
The kids in line will usually begin chanting and yelling encouragement from the bottom. Or even better, the kids start taunting them and telling them “it’s not scary”..only to come up and do the exact same thing on their turn.
This is where the magic happens and the camper writes a story.
Sometimes they write a story of regret, walking back down in defeat, leaving them to remember the time they “almost” jumped on the blob at camp and even leaving the kid waiting patiently on the end of the blob disappointed. I always hated having to tell that kid to slide off because there was no one to blob them.
But other times, the camper would finally throw all caution to the wind, decide to trust, and make a victorious leap off the stand. They would always be laughing with glee before they even landed. And they were always back in line as soon as they climbed out of the water. They wrote a story of victory.
This story was so important, not only for them, but for the campers in line who watched them overcome their fear and were then inspired to try it themselves. The “I’ll do it if you do it” kids. All they needed was someone to follow.
There were times I would get so frustrated with the campers, because I knew better than them and in all my experience lifeguarding and working the blob, I hadn’t once seen a kid get seriously hurt, yet I couldn’t make their decision to jump.
And then I would wonder how God must feel with us sometimes. Because we do the same dang thing every day. We see His awesome plans for us, big or small, get excited, and then we freeze. We make excuses, we get distracted, we let ourselves dwell on what could go wrong instead of what could go right. And all the while we are insulting Him. Implying that we don’t trust Him enough to take care of us or to save us when something goes wrong.
And we are so selfish to think that this is all about us at all. We forget that there are others depending on us, waiting on us, to answer God’s call to love in bold ways. We forget that others are watching us, holding on to dreams of their own, waiting to gain courage from the examples of others.
As my friend, Brandt Akin, recently said, “a fresh encounter with Jesus is waiting at the end of the diving board.” When asked, “blobber ready?” I hope you yell “Blob on!” and jump.