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You can’t rest if you’re treading water. If you have become too tired in life or in your marriage, you might need to swim to shore. I like analogies. They’re fun to work with because they can teach an abstract idea through a concrete picture.
I sometimes use swimming as an analogy for how to develop a healthy relationship. Water isn’t a human’s natural habitat. We were born out of water and into the air. No one can last but a few minutes underwater without needing to replenish their air supply. No one can tread water forever.
Without Rest You Won’t Last Long
Swimming takes an enormous amount of energy. Relationships do too. No one will last long if they try to make it through life alone. We need other people in our lives; we especially need God.
Imagine you are swimming in an ocean with your spouse. You can’t touch the bottom. You can’t see the shore. It won’t take long for you to become too tired to remain afloat. All you can do is tread water.
If you become tired and start to go under, you would naturally reach out for something or someone to help you keep your head above water. If the person you are with is also tired, grabbing onto them probably won’t help much, at least not for very long. It’s possible it could even accelerate the problem.
A desperate person will attempt to cling to whatever is in from of them. When you cling to your spouse in a panic, you might end up pulling them under with you. Clinging to your spouse only creates a false sense of hope. If you’re both tired, you’re better off keeping your distance. Unfortunately, when you are caught up in the emotions of a relationship, it’s difficult to be aware of how dependent you are and the subsequent danger.
An Abundance Of Rest Can Keep You Strong
Thank God that we weren’t meant to experience life alone. An individual can have family and friends. But, more importantly, each of us can rely on God to keep us afloat. Each person in a marriage needs to learn how to swim independent of the other, but sustained by God at the same time. To continue the analogy, God would be like a large rock sticking up out of the ocean. If you become tired, you could take a break by resting on the rock, instead of attempting to rest on your spouse.
Psalm 62 doesn’t mention swimming, but it certainly points out that God is the only true place of rest and security:
Truly my soul finds rest in God;Psalm 62:1-2 NIV
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
God rescues us from our failing self-effort. He is the only true place of rest, energy, and strength. Because everyone else is treading water too, there’s no guarantee they will be reliable. Only God the rock is resting on the ocean floor. He is the only safe place that guarantees you will never drown.
Psalm 62 ends by saying that God is powerful and kind. Cling hard to God whenever life circumstances toss you around like ocean waves. If a marriage is failing, the primary reason is usually because one or both people try to cling harder to their spouse (or someone other than their spouse) than they try to cling to God.
God means for husband and wife to cling to each other too. A lifeguard doesn’t spend all their time in the water. They keep watch over swimmers from the shore. You can be there for your spouse, at least in short bursts of energy, if you’ve had sufficient rest on the rock.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.