There was a leak in my goggles when I swam. I couldn’t explain why. I positioned them carefully over my eyes and pressed them until I felt the suction grab my skin. I dove under. I felt the delightful stretch through my limbs and the cool water rush over me. This was my reward after a day of study. This was my solitude, my silence.
Half way up the lane I noticed the globulous frustration that had seeped in. It wobbled before me distracting me. I could not see. I thought about the possibilities of resolving this, annoyed that my plans had been interrupted. At the end of the pool I trod water and drained out the intruder. There was barely a drop but this small distraction had blocked my view for 50 metres. As I dangled awkwardly, adjusting the straps, pressing my goggles back in place, I wondered if it was fixed.
Half way down the lane, the distraction was back and I stopped again, making sure that my cap was not breaking the suction. Everything seemed fine and I resolved to deal with it, to swim blindly; to pretend I was Michael Phelps. Unlike Phelps the tape in my head wasn’t about winning, I did not visualise the strokes, or my name on the scoreboard or myself on centre block. I just wanted to breathe and as I continued, I forgot to be annoyed.
Somewhere in the rhythm of the strokes I eased my way to the indulgence of contemplation. I’d been puzzling with concepts in my head and come to the pool for answers. It was late in the day. I’ve discovered that in spring this is the only time you can hope to get a lane to yourself. By now the stream of light from the setting western sun was all I could perceive as I lifted my head from the water. I could not see the bottom of the pool or the ropes that separated the lanes. I decided that painting my nails a shocking shade of orange was a brilliant idea. Five little beacons a side guided me through the misty waters, lighting my way.
Then the pictures in my mind began to unfold and I was Samuel looking at the line-up of men. How would I choose? Amidst all the decisions that life presents, how can we ever really know? Then in that moment I sensed His presence.
“I will show you what to do.”[i]
He is there, His voice, His whisper. His strength supports me as I glide through the pool. He never neglects to show up even when our vision is blurred and things don’t go as we planned. He’s training us to see. When the thing that seems obvious stands before us, we hear a voice that says,
“Do not consider his appearance or his height….”[ii]
He doesn’t see the way we do. It’s not just one sense that enables our seeing. Sometimes he must hold His hands over our face like a friend playing guess who? It’s not the vision of Him that enables our seeing. It’s all our other senses combining with our intellect. Slowly we perceive Him and the message becomes clear.
It was long ago, it was late at night when all was dark and everything was silent that you first discerned His voice. It wasn’t obvious at first. You didn’t know it was Him who called your name. Slowly as you grew, as you aged, as you remained obedient, you discovered the wisdom of checking His will first before you had your say. Even now, after all His years of faithfulness, you are vulnerable.
“How can I go?”[iii]
“I will show you what to do?”
So there you stand, pondering decisions and while everything looks great, you perceive there’s something or someone else.
“Are these all the sons you have?”[iv]
You feel like a fool to ask the question when before you stand seven other amazing options. Why can’t you make your decision when what you see is so good?
Then the final option is placed before you.
“He is the one.”
As time passes all your doubts make sense. God has been teaching you to wait, to pause, to hesitate. The eighth man comes from the field, from tending the sheep. He is not a warrior. His training is unconventional. He is not the obvious choice to anyone but he is God’s anointed. He is but a shepherd, but he knows how to defend the sheep from the lion and the bear. He has nothing to prove, no friends to gloat to, no fancy armour. After the oil anoints him, he returns contently to the sheep.
In the quiet contentment of an ordinary life, His spirit cries in the deep bearing witness with your spirit.[v] You watch as the shepherd walks away but you know how the story ends and you place both feet firmly on the tiles beneath you, remove your goggles and your cap sinking down so the water refreshes your scalp and smooths your hair. You are thankful again for the season of spring and the things that God has shown you when your eyes were not able to see.