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Learning to swim without fear

From the July 22, 1996 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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It was one of the first times Alison had been in a pool. She was taking swimming lessons, and the two swimming teachers wanted her to try swimming alone, but she was too scared. She didn't know the swimming teachers very well, and Mom wasn't in the pool with her. So, she cried during each swimming lesson, and the crying kept her from listening to and learning from the teachers. Mom began to wonder if she should take Alison out of the swimming classes because she wasn't learning much about swimming.

They talked it over. If Alison stayed in the classes, she could learn two things: she could learn how to swim, and she could learn how to overcome fear. Mom thought these two lessons seemed too important to pass up, but Alison still wasn't quite sure. Alison needed to know how to swim, but it was even more important that she learn just how close God is—that He is all-powerful and all good, and that there is no power that could make her afraid.

Alison attended a Christian Science Sunday School, where she had been learning that God is really our Father-Mother. Our Parent, God, loves all of His children. Mom turned to the book of Acts in the Bible, where Paul, a follower of Christ Jesus, explained who God was to the people of Athens. They thought He was "THE UNKNOWN GOD," but Paul said, " ... in him we live, and move, and have our being" (see Acts 17:22-29). Mom knew that Alison lived and moved and had her being in God's loving care. Alison was beginning to understand that, too.

She stayed in the swimming class. Each day in the car on the way to swim, they learned a verse from Hymn 148 in the Christian Science Hymnal, until they finally knew the whole hymn by heart. Here's how the first verse goes:

In heavenly Love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.

The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?

Mom talked to Alison a lot about how God loved her and was always with her—even at places where and times when Mom wasn't with her. God was with her in the pool, in the car, and everywhere. Alison was safe with Him because He was "round about." She couldn't be afraid in His care.

And you know what? She stopped being scared! And when she stopped being scared, she could hear the swimming teachers telling her what to do—and she learned how to swim! But do you know what the neatest part was? She learned that fear couldn't stop her from feeling God's presence!

Parent's note: Alison is a teenager now. There have been many times since the swimming class when a member of our family has had to decide whether to stay in a challenging situation or to leave it. Whenever we have prayed to God and relied on His guidance, though, we have discovered that the choice that followed has always been right.

Daughter's note: This healing took place when I was very young. I still remember singing "In heavenly Love abiding ... " every day with my mom on the way to the swimming lesson. It helped me overcome my fear of the water and of swimming, which happens to be one of my favorite activities now. Several years after this experience, I swam on the local swim team.

This particular hymn has continued to be a favorite. It has helped me to remember that, if "God is round about me," I can feel safe and calm.

I still find the words of this hymn helpful and inspiring, reminding me of God's ever-present care, whenever I am faced with a challenging or fearful situation.

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