The Parable of the Pool

The other day my daughter and I went to the neighborhood pool for a swim.  Take a ten-year-old, just add water, and you have hours of amusement.  Well, maybe.  What started out as a fun outing turned into a hard lesson for both of us.

We hadn’t been there long before my daughter found a few other little girls to play with.  She was so happy, and I was too.  Watching her splash about with her friends, diving and laughing and inventing new ways to frolic in the water – it brought me joy to see her having a good time.  Things were going great until the favorites arrived.

Slightly older, maybe more winning with an ounce of bully added – the B.M.O.C. and his sister strutted into the pool area.  They were bigger, louder, more exciting.  And before long the kids playing with my Abbey were sucked away swiftly.  A new playgroup formed, and my kid was not welcome into it.  She tried, but both the new kids and their lackeys shunned her repeatedly.  Before long she got the message.  Defeated, she climbed out of the pool, stumbled over and sat next to me, and began to cry.

She knew exactly what had happened.  “I don’t have any friends.  Why don’t they like me?  Why did they want me at first but then they didn’t want me anymore?”

I tried my best to comfort her.  On the way home we discussed the whole dilemma and I taught her a new vocabulary word:  Fickle.  “It’s easy to remember, it rhymes with ‘pickle’”, I told her.  We talked about fickle friends and faithful friends and decided it was better to have, and be to others, a faithful friend.

I’ve thought about this a good bit since, seeing so many parallels to our fickle tendencies in adult life, too.  We go through a honeymoon phase where everything is wonderful, but eventually and inescapably we find ourselves bored, no longer stimulated and entertained, perhaps searching for the next exciting thing.

All of this is a tell on our tendency toward self-importance.  You’re here to make me feel good, we tell our spouse, our pastor, and the food aisles at the grocery store.  When you no longer meet my needs, I’ll be looking elsewhere, and if something else better comes along, I’m ditching you.  Such is the heart of children at the pool, and you and I today.

The Parable of the Pool was a reminder to me of many things.  The pain I feel as I watch someone I love get rejected is a parallel of the way we have often made others feel.  Sure, you and I have been on the other end of people’s fickleness many times, but let’s deal with our own baggage for a minute.

In my marriage, I have neglected my wife for some fleeting thing I decided was more interesting on my cell phone.  As a father, I have blown off my children because I wanted to mow the yard or wash the car.  In the friendships in my life, I have treated people like commodities because I was more interested in something that would entertain me.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and people know when they aren’t important to us.  Perhaps you have been fickle as well.

In the midst of all this fickleness, God speaks truth.  He recognizes our shallow allegiance: “Your loyalty is like the morning dew that disappears in the sunlight.” (Hosea 6:4) In contrast, he affirms his faithfulness: “I, the Lord, do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)

The message of God’s faithfulness is heard everywhere.  The soundtrack of most of my driving lately has been the music of Jackson Browne.  Infused with the heart of God, he sings:

If you ever need holding
Call my name and I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
No holding back, I’ll see you through
Sky blue and black

As the sun set that evening at the pool we packed up and headed home.  Both my daughter and I resolved to focus less on how others treat us and more on how we can be faithful friends to those around us.  It’s stayed on my mind since.  May we love others by being the rare people that stay for the long haul and sing the song of God’s love to every person God brings into our lives:  I’m with you, no holding back, sky blue or sky black.

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At VCC, we believe that church is not a function: it is a family. Our religion is only as alive as we are, the people that pursue it. So, rather than acting as an organization, we want to act as an organism. We have no time for casual contacts and meaningless formalities. We are a fellowship on an adventure towards the stuff of God. Church means worshipping God together, studying the Bible together, fixing our cars together, hiking together, eating together, playing together, praying together... enjoying the warmth of the Holy Spirit in all parts of our lives together, not just in appointed meeting times.