Paper Tigers & Impressing God
A Write 31 Days Series
It makes sense to me that I would have issues with trying to impress God because when I was growing up, impressing my dad was so important to me.
My dad was the one person I wanted favor from the very most, maybe because I knew my mom approved of me. She told me often how proud she was of me.
I remember the scene. I was a 6-year-old girl, and my dad was teaching me how to water ski. I honestly didn’t have a huge desire to be pulled by a boat across the choppy, Texas lake, but I knew my dad would be proud of me if I could do it. So I was trying my hardest to take it all in. I had my legs pulled into my chest, and I was doing my best to keep those heavy, kid-sized, wooden skis pointing up. “Keep your arms out, keep the skis underneath you, and let the boat pull you up,” he said repeatedly, hoping the repetition would let the proper form sink into my thoughts.
I had been pulled by a boat before. At 5-years, old my neighbor friend and I had rode a board pulled slowly behind our boat together. We had even stood up, in an exercise in bravery. I’m sure I was feeding off her courage, because she was a whole year older, clearly much more grown up.
We have home videos of this us on the board, standing together, watching the scenery change around us and waving to the camera. When we would watch these videos at home, my dad would brag. “Look at Jennifer,” he would say, “she’s only 5 and she’s out there standing on that board and waving.”
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my dad would be proud of me if I could get my little, uncoordinated legs to stand on those two curved planks of wood.
I wanted it so bad, not because I thought it would be fun, but because I wanted to hear my dad praise me.
I don’t remember how many tries it took before I finally was able to quit swallowing disgusting, brown lake water and make it up to standing. I do remember how much my arms hurt. The motor boat my dad wasn’t anything impressive, but it had enough kick to really pull. A few times I let it pull me right over my feet, and there was no choice, the force pulls you off that rope quick. Several times I would begin to make it up, really pulling hard, and I would fall to the side, the water spanking my thighs. The thing is, you really can’t pull yourself up. Just like my dad had said, you have to let the boat pull you up.
I tried so many times that my dad began to ask me, “Are you done? Do you want to get back in the boat?” as he would swing the boat back around in a big, wave-inducing circle.
Whenever you fail to launch or fall, you are left on your own in the middle of that deep, murky water until they get turned around to come back to you. I know the first few times I was terrified. What if a boat came and didn’t see me? What about those creepy, beady-eyed Alligator Gars?
After a few tries, I quit being scared and was thankful for the time it took for the boat to get back to me. I would put on any skis that had fallen off as quick as possible so I could lay back and float on my back, letting my aching arms and stinging legs relax their muscles for a few seconds.
The question would come, “Are you sure you want to try again. You look pretty tired.”
“No. I can do it,” I would tell him.
In a clear miracle that we should all just praise God for, the form finally clicked. I felt my legs find steadiness as I slowly straightened them out, as the boat pulled me to standing.
I was doing it. My dad would be proud.
I have water skied so many times during my childhood, and I have even done it a few times as an adult.
It has never been that fun to me. Sure it is a little fun. When the lake is smooth, you get up quick enough to not feel like your arms are putty, and the boat takes a slight curve to send you sailing out to the left or to the right, over the wake, you feel like you are flying. That is fun. If I am being honest, that was such a low percentage, I don’t know if any of it was worth all the effort.
Other people love skiing. My dad has a blast. My brothers loved being adventurous and trying tricks. It is possible to think it is just the most fun ever.
For me, it was never about that. I hope my dad isn’t too disappointed to know that I didn’t fall in love with it like he did.
This memory is the clearest, earliest example of how I fell into being a good girl. I would not only try my very hardest to never do anything my dad wouldn’t approved of, but I would also do anything that would make my dad proud of me.
When I became a Christian, I treated God the exact same way I had treated my dad. It isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is childish.
It isn’t only childish, but it also isn’t the free life Christ died to give me. I want that life.
Click to return to series table of contents.
I like to include a song with each blog post for you. I almost never listen to country music, but it was such a big part of my childhood and there ain't nothing wrong with this.