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Sink or Swim – Catholic Review

Every summer when I was a kid, my parents signed me up for swimming lessons. I stood in the shallow end of Stoneleigh Pool and listened to the instructor explain clearly and simply what we were all going to do.

My classmates laughed and splashed in the water with delight. I was shivering, half-heartedly straining, diving into the pool until my shoulders were wet, and never putting my face near the water.

I had no desire to be in the pool. I certainly never learned to swim. It was fine with me. My well-meaning parents eventually gave up.

Then, a few years into my journalism career as a recent college graduate, a colleague of mine wrote an article for the newspaper about learning to swim as an adult. As our colleagues were surprised that she couldn’t swim, I confessed that I didn’t know either.

Jenn immediately offered to pay for my classes at the local YMCA – and come with me to class each week.

I still didn’t care if I ever learned to swim, but I decided I had nothing to lose. I was much more stubborn as a child than I was as a resourceful and adaptable adult. I could see the reason for learning to swim. And Jenn was a very nice person, a friend, who understood that she was only able to swim reluctantly. I signed up and started classes.

Learning to swim as an adult was a completely different experience. I had one-on-one instruction with a teacher who listened to my concerns and responded with reassurance and practical advice. He was patient and determined to help me learn.

Not too many lessons later, I was able to do everything I had to. I would never win a race, but if I fell out of a boat I would probably be able to stay afloat until I was rescued. I could at least float backwards while the sharks bit me. I felt quite accomplished.

Years later, when I became a mother, I watched our sons learn to swim from patient, understanding teachers (and their mother who stayed well away). Sometimes I wondered if different teachers or a different process could have helped me when I was young. But I also think I just wasn’t ready or motivated at the time. The timing was wrong. It was true for me and for swimming, and it was also at other times in my life. This is also true of how we grow in our faith.

It can be easy to expect everyone to be on the same timeline in being ready for the sacraments or reaching a specific milestone on a faith journey. But everyone’s journey is different. God patiently waits for each of us, loving us where we are, recognizing that our path is uniquely ours. Our perception of time is not the same as his. We will be ready when we are ready.

“Our goal must be the infinite and not the finite. We have always been expected in heaven,” said Blessed Carlo Acutis.

God is always ready to meet us where we are. The invitation is there. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to be patient with ourselves – and with each other.

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