The Spiritual Practice of Floating

When I was a kid, I had to take Swimming 1 several summers in a row. I was a fearful child and water was my nemesis.  I would cling to the side of the pool. A close call at Waimea Bay when I was very little taught me that water was dangerous. And when I thought something was dangerous, I stayed FAR away from it.

So even in the relative safety of the community pool, the idea of floating was daunting. The instructor kept telling me to relax…enjoy it…feel the joy of weightlessness… I didn’t, not any of it. That is until I had a real healing of past fears. Once the Lord broke the chains, I could “come out into the deep” with full assurance of his care. (More on that another time.)

Thankfully, floating is now my favorite thing to do in the water.

I push past the waves and swim out to where the water gently surges up and down. I look up to the amazingly blue sky, take a deep breath, ease my head back and let my limbs gently push the water back and forth. The water is so refreshing. It tickles the sides of my face. My hair becomes like seaweed in the current. I close my eyes. Bliss…


So this week when I heard someone use the analogy of floating with the dynamics of business, I immediately got it. They pointed out that floating is a mixture of tension and ease, just as business is. Finding that sweet spot can take your job from hellish to invigorating.

Of course, you know me, I instantly saw the connection with my spiritual life. Let’s break it down.

Floating is like a spiritual journey…

  • If you make it all about your effort to stay above the water you’ll wear yourself out and eventually drown.

This is what happens in a crisis situation. The person begins to expend too much energy, they don’t relax and they begin to sink.

Spiritually, this looks like “doing more” for God. We think that the more we do, the closer we will get to the Lord. This isn’t true. The more we work without the Lord’s direction or guidance, the further we get from him. In discouragement, we usually give up thinking, “being a Christian is too hard.”

  • If you don’t put any effort, you’ll sink and drown.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the swimmer who just lays in the water will also sink. There are skills and techniques to keep us at the surface. One must fill the lungs with life-giving air. When the arms and legs start to sink, the swimmer can slowly add movement to keep them afloat.

In our walk with God, there are things that keep us growing closer to the Lord. We fill up with the Holy Spirit – the breath of God. We find a simple rhythm of movement that brings us closer to God. This may be various spiritual formation habits or rituals that enhance our devotional life.

  • When you find the perfect amount of effort and ease, you can float for a very, very long time.

The floating skill is what keeps people alive in a water emergency. With it, you conserve energy and are able to breathe easily.

Likewise, when we find the balance between effort and ease in our spiritual life, we are able to stay in it for the long haul. The Christian life is a LONG journey. We don’t sprint into the Kingdom – not even speed swim…

Following Jesus’ example, we find the perfect rhythm of grace.

In God’s presence, live in a balance of effort and ease.  Feel the Son on your face, and the cool of the living water. There is freedom from the gravity of earth.

And you don’t even have to buy a new swimsuit.