Don't worry," the swimmer next me called out, "get in my way. I'll watch out for you."
Her words caught me by surprise. Paddling along at the community pool, I'm usually the slowpoke amid the exercise enthusiasts. They push the less accomplished aside with strong strokes, seemingly oblivious of others. Her words were soothing and assured me that this time I was safe. I could swim with sweet abandon.
But how many times I've said, "Get out of my way!" Words designed to cut a path through any obstacle course, I utter them in the belief that I'm about to do something important, to go somewhere I'm needed. "Get out of my way" separates me from you. It causes division, even competition. It leads to isolation. They're hurtful words.
Later I thought about what Jesus tells us. Jesus — who meets us on the roads of our lives — says, "I am the way, and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). These are gathering words — Jesus calls us to walk with him.
Was it an echo of that I heard in the other swimmer's invitation to get in her way? Her unexpected call certainly made me aware that my hurried way is lonely and sometimes perilous. Bouncing the words around in my head, I realized her call had joined us. It gave me a peaceful swim, knowing I was protected from the more skillful swimmers.
How often, when my life's path has intersected another's, have I missed the opportunity to offer peace and grace?
In that moment in the pool I experienced what it felt like when the other swimmer welcomed me into her path. And so I could hear again Jesus' call to walk with him, to walk his way and to make way for the strangers I meet there.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers