A summer day stands out in my memory. We were swimming at the community pool in Baltimore, Ohio where my sister Melony, brother-in-law Jim and their family lived at the time. Kyle was five that summer. His cousin Jeremiah was six.
Remembering how many years it took me to work up the courage to jump off the high dive and how much fun it was once I did it, I decided that I would try to get Kyle to jump off at five. Not to bright, but the excuse I used at the time was my youth.
Kyle couldn’t swim yet but I promised that I would haul him out when he bobbed to the surface. He had a lot of questions but I answered them and assured him that I would be there to help him over to the side. With a little coaxing he climbed to the top of the dive and walked out to the edge of the board. That is where he froze. He could not move to jump or go back. He just stood and shivered skinny and white there with his toes curled over the end of the board. Eventually everyone in the pool stopped to see what would happen.
Lois was at the other end of the pool wading with the other children. I knew if she realized what I was doing that I was in trouble. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her coming and dreaded what she would say. The words that came out of her mouth surprised me.
“Come on, little buddy. You can do it!”
“Go ahead jump. Come on Kyle, you can do it!”
“If you jump I’ll buy you a skateboard.”
Nothing we said could make him go. Finally I went up the ladder and helped him down.
As soon as I got down with Kyle, Jeremiah said, “I’ll go,” and without hesitation he climbed to the top of the dive strode out to the end of the board and fell face-first into the water below. He didn’t jump tentatively feet-first and he didn’t dive head-first. He just fell forward and when his body was horizontal to the water it hit with a sharp slap. Everyone sucked in their breath. We all watched to see if he would come to the surface. He did, churning the water. His nose was bleeding and he was shouting, “I did it! I did it!”
Jim grabbed his arm and helped him dog paddle over to the edge. He climbed the ladder out of the pool, wiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand and said, “I’m going again,” as he ran back for the diving board. Over and over again he jumped into the water even though he didn’t know how to swim. He didn’t even stop to see if his dad was ready. That is just the way God wired Jeremiah.
That was about sixteen summers ago. Jeremiah has been on my heart a lot lately and I have prayed for him a number of times every day for the last few weeks because he has grown into a strapping man. He no longer plays with trucks and or rides trikes he was grown up and at this writing he is an Abrams tank commander in the First Marine fighting in Iraq. We follow the news with great interest and concern these days. I always pray that his name does not show up on a list of killed or wounded or captured. I wonder what horrors he has seen and what he has had to do. I wonder what effect the experience is having on him. I pray that he will be safe and that he will walk close to the Lord. I like to imagine us all together again and Jeremiah with stories to tell of things we can only imagine.
Kyle and I have followed the war closely thinking of Jeremiah and discussing where he might be and what he might be doing. We agree that Jeremiah is probably one of the reasons most of Saddam’s best surrendered without a fight. If you grew up with Jeremiah you would know why.