13. Discerning Truth

“I felt like a child
 playing with pebbles on the shore
 when an ocean of truth
lay all about me.”
— Sir Isaac Newton


When Lisa was five and Jonathan was two, I taught swimming lessons for the YMCA’s Backyard Swim Program. By the end of the summer months, I’d seen so many young faces that few remain in my memory. But one little face I will never forget.

Tommy came to swim class with five other preschoolers from his daycare program. The color of his inquisitive eyes matched the clear aqua blue of the pool water. His soft brown hair was parted in the middle and evenly trimmed just above his small shoulders. And though he never panicked or cried, I could tell that he was terrified of the water.

After several sessions, I managed to convince Tommy that he could trust me to keep his head above the surface of the water until he let me know he was ready to go underneath it. Early in the second week, he was confidently blowing bubbles and allowing me to take him under the water briefly while he held his breath. But while I worked individually with the other children, he would attach himself to the edge of the pool like a starfish suctioned onto aquarium glass. I felt absolutely certain that he would not let go.

On the last day of lessons, I helped each child review the skills we had practiced. During one brief moment of that process, I turned my back on Tommy. When I pivoted back around I saw staring up at me, from about a foot under the water, a pair of frightened blue eyes framed by a mop of floating hair!

I quickly attached the child in my arms to the edge of the pool and grabbed Tommy. Lifting him up from the depths, I wrapped the little boy in a remorseful hug, expecting him to start screaming as soon as he’d caught his breath. But to my surprise, he calmly brushed back his drenched hair, looked at me and said, “You almost wost me there!”

I can recall many times in my journey when I felt “wost” – I mean, lost. Or perhaps “insecure” would be a more accurate term. Especially when trying to comprehend the spiritual realm. Whenever I contemplated my position in God’s kingdom “what ifs” would nag at my conscience: What if the Bible translation that I’m reading is inaccurate? What if I’ve become trapped in tradition, and I’m teaching erroneous doctrine? How can I be sure that my lamp is filled with the right brand of oil?

Though my experience with depression had been diagnosed as “clinical” – a byproduct of chemical imbalance – I knew deep inside that unanswered “what ifs” were pulling me under, like lead weights drawing me down, down, down into a deep pool, filled with doubt,  guilt, and fear.

When fibromyalgia claimed control of my body in January 1994, I couldn’t understand why God was allowing such a debilitating illness to take me away from my family, my work, my ministries, and all the things that I’d been pouring my heart, mind and energies into for over a decade. I managed to muddle through my chosen activities until Jon’s high school graduation in June 1995.

But when I was finally diagnosed in July of that year, I felt so hopeless that I rarely left the house. I needed help with driving, grocery shopping, house cleaning and a list of other functions that I’d been able to easily handle just 18 months earlier. And the “what ifs” began pummeling me like 10-foot ocean waves: What if God is punishing me for something I’ve done wrong? What if I keep getting worse? How will I fill the empty hours of this pitiful, painful life?

Looking back from the vantage point I have now, I can see that my heavenly Father had a plan. He wanted to address my questions and answer my prayers. He intended to teach me how to discern truth and recognize false teaching. It would take time. And He would not take me under until I was fully prepared to accept incredible facts that He was ready to show me.

“Stand firm then,
with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”

(Ephesians 6:14)



Do you believe that God has a plan for you? How secure do you feel when you think about that possibility … that certainty? Learning to swim takes time, effort and a willingness to build confidence. It can be fun, but it can also be challenging and dangerous. Living within the scope of God’s plan can seem challenging, and even dangerous. But He is always there to lift and sustain us when we’re feeling lost and helpless.