As a small child, barely old enough to recall, one of my brothers decided to teach me how to swim. Eager anticipation swelled up inside of me as we pulled into the hotel parking lot. This was my first experience with trespassing.
My brother wasn’t much of a rule follower. At half-way to a century, he still isn’t much of a rule abider – just slower.
Let’s just call him Renegade.
Before I could barely set my towel down, Renegade tossed me into the deep end. Instead of panicking, I simply sunk to the bottom and sat down. I still see myself staring up at him through the moving water. I sat there, crisscross style, for what seemed like an eternity.
Within a few minutes, my first swim lesson was over.
He swam down to get me. I sat still and then he came for me. I honestly don’t recall much of the events afterwards.
The only thing I remember is being terrified of the water for a long time.
Renegade lives halfway across the world from me so we don’t see each other often. He came for a visit this year and as we sat at the kitchen counter one evening. He profusely apologized for the swim lesson. It was kind of an awkward moment, because I didn’t need an apology thirty years later.
“You were only down there for two seconds,” he said. “I didn’t leave you there for long. I figured you would at least try to swim. But you just sat there and I picked you up.”
When I recalled the evening of my swim lesson, it seemed like minutes had passed. I stared at the dark figure of my brother standing above the water and time stood still.
He brought it up again in later conversation, “a couple of seconds.”
That evening I also learned about my brother’s swim lesson, coached by our Father. The story helped me to understand my brother, Renegade, a little more.
We don’t always get to write our chapters or choose the characters. We certainly don’t always play the role we want.
We can feel our role is insignificant and our character is easily forgettable – drowned by too many plot twists.
My brother had lost a little girl – one he had raised like his own daughter. She drowned in the ocean the previous year -- right in front of him. I think she was still weighing heavy on his heart. He would have taken her place in less than a second. Renegade has some hard edges but he’s got a pretty soft core.
When you grieve from loss, the hard edges get cracks exposing your fragility. Loss lends to reflection. And then the reflection makes you second guess things, especially time. At some point you decide to tie up some lose ends before your time left becomes less than a second.
I didn’t need the apology, because I had already forgiven. What I did need was the two seconds.
Two seconds became a splash of water to the face. (Ephesians 5:13-16)
Two seconds pushed me to make amends with others. (James 5:16)
Two seconds reaffirmed how worry doesn’t add any time to our lives. It actually steals our time. (Luke 12:25)
Two seconds provided a fresh perspective on endurance of trials. While in the midst of trials, time seems to drag on. But on the other side, time is fleeting. (Psalm 39:4)
Two seconds reminded me how our time is not the same as God’s time. For when the day of the Lord comes “do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
He does this for us, intentionally being “slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is actually extending patience toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Two seconds is longer than the blink of an eye. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
Therefore, we must work up until the last second, steadfast and immovable to save our lost brothers and sisters. (1 Corinthians 15:58)