In my father’s boyhood days, there was no such thing as a community swimming pool in rural Oklahoma. Even though the Greeks and Romans had pools 600 years before the birth of Jesus, I guess rural Oklahoma had yet to catch up.
My father could swim well. I asked him how he learned, thinking all along of the dust bowl state in a post-depression era. He told me his dad would take each of his siblings when they came of age to the big pool in the nearby creek (yes, you know what’s coming next!). My grandfather would convey to them he was right there if they needed him, but it was a matter of sink or swim. With that, the student was thrown into the creek to either swim back to the bank or be rescued by my grandfather. I’m unsure how many times my father was rescued, if any. Its obvious he grasped the idea of staying on top of the water quite well.
We apply the phrase “sink or swim” to our daily lives in situations which do not involve water at all. We say, “nose to the grindstone,” “fish or cut bait,” or “sink or swim” to indicate its time to get motivated or succumb to the hardships in our path. Highly motivated individuals can do this with some ease, but most of us need help just getting started.
Biblically, when you hear the “sink or swim” phrase, our minds should automatically go to Simon Peter. Peter was bold, brash, and made some quick decisions that later got him into a little trouble. These decisions usually didn’t have very much thought behind them.
When the disciples were in the boat struggling all night against the wind on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus walked out passed them. Initially, they all were terrified until Jesus identified Himself. It was Peter who challenged Jesus saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” A few steps later and Peter was sinking, crying out to Jesus to save him.
Contrast this with the disciples fishing together after the resurrection. Jesus asked them if they were catchin’ any (just like any good fisherman would ask!). When He instructed them to try the other side, the nets became full. At that moment Jesus was recognized and it was Peter who wrapped his outer garment around his waist, and into the water he went without hesitation. It’s speculated he made it to shore before the boat!
The difference? Preparedness for certain. But the greatest is keeping our eyes on the one who can motivate us to greatness, even in the midst of our circumstances. Jesus was present with Peter at both occasions, but it was Peter’s focus that motivated him to reach his goal.
Where is your focus today? Are your eyes set on the one who can pull you from your situation? You can sink or swim, but Jesus not only wants you to swim (our goal), He also wants you to walk on water (His goal for us)! Do some “water-walking” this week with the right focus!