All you have to do is take a deep breath and jump

By Drew Williams
Sentinel Contributor

Drew Williams

Drew Williams

I taught all three of my daughters to swim. Not to any accredited athletic standard, you understand, but just enough to get them moving approximately in a horizontal direction whilst remaining oxygenated. When my eldest daughter, Katie, was just four years old I told her that on the day she could swim a length of the pool unaided, I would buy her a CD player. These were highly coveted items in the previous century. I said, “You can do this! I know this feels scary, but all you have to do is take a deep breath and jump. I promise you won’t sink and I am right here!” I had imagined that this challenge would take at least a few months to be accomplished. To my utter amazement she looked at me and then at the water, took a deep breath, jumped and swam her first length! Her smile said it all.

My youngest daughter, Olivia, has just turned seven and this summer we have been in the pool. I was successful in persuading her to take her first solo jump from the diving board. I was in the water, calling up to the tiny aquanaut anxiously edging her way to the brink of the abyss. From beneath the board, I encouraged her, “You can do this! I know this feels scary, but all you have to do is take a deep breath and jump. I promise that you will not sink and I am right here!” She looked at me and then at the water, took a deep breath and jumped. As she bobbed back to the surface, her smile said it all.

A few weeks ago Katie left us all for her freshman year at college. The summer has been spent making lists and packing, with me pretending that I was not counting down the days to the heartbreak of farewell. We compressed what seemed like the contents of a four-bedroom house into the car and made the eleven-hour road trip to the next bright chapter of her life.

I had been wondering just what I was going to say to her when we finally came to the big goodbye. I had prayed about this. What words are there? And if there were some words of particular wisdom and profundity, shouldn’t I have said them sometime before?! We hauled her belongings up to her dorm room and as my wife, Elena, helped Katie unpack, I was deployed to construct a set of drawers from Bed Bath & Beyond. The task was indeed almost beyond me. And then suddenly it was time to say goodbye. An upper classman knocked politely at the door and informed Katie that the welcome lunch meeting was about to start. I asked if we might come too and he politely shook his head. One moment my self-assembly handiwork was being likened to the leaning Tower of Pisa, and then it was goodbye. Eighteen beautiful years, and then goodbye! I wasn’t sure that I was capable of saying anything and then I knew exactly what to say. I held her very close and repeated some familiar words, “You can do this! I know this is scary, but all you have to do is take a deep breath and jump. I promise you that you will not sink and don’t you ever doubt that I will always be here for you!”  So she took a deep breath and then she jumped. We remained in her dorm room (for me to re-assemble the drawers under Elena’s supervision) and we listened, as her footsteps grew faint. I peered around the door to see how far she had made it down the corridor but she was already out of sight. Later that night she sent us a photograph of herself amidst a sea of new faces. Her smile said it all.

Drew Williams is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Church Greenwich. Trinity is an independent church drawing around 1200 in membership from the Tristate area. Drew’s ministry has been directed toward helping people find and deepen an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Drew’s passion to see the church renewed and mobilized in the love and justice of God was the subject of a national award winning book “Breakout.” The Wall Street Journal’s business strategist Gary Hamel featured Drew’s ministry as a chapter in his recent book, “What matters now.” Of Drew, Gary Hamel wrote, “Drew is one of the most innovative Christian leaders I know.” TV presenter and author, Kathie Lee Gifford wrote, “Drew has tremendous communication skills. He’s very comfortable on camera therefore the audience is comfortable. He never acts like he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, never preaches at you and always makes you feel that what he’s saying sincerely comes from his heart.” Drew read law at Exeter University, Theology at Trinity College and practiced as an attorney from 1991-1998. He was ordained in the Anglican Church in 2000 and was called to the US in 2009 to lead Trinity Church.

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