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Julie Exline, Ph.D.
Julie J. Exline Ph.D.

Floating: An Exercise in Simple Trust

Maybe you don’t need a dramatic leap of faith...just a simple float in the pool.

It’s a cool, starlit night, and I’m alone in the hotel pool. The chill in the air has kept others away. There are no kids splashing and screaming, no lap swimmers to crash into me, no poolside chatter.

In the stillness I make my way out to the center of the pool. Leaning back, I release my feet from the bottom. I feel myself lift up. The quiet of the water surrounds and embraces me.

I can close my eyes and trust that the water will hold me up. I am fully supported.


Sometimes people experience God in this way, too—like water that surrounds, holds, and sustains us. For our part, faith is about taking the risk of leaning back and letting go, trusting that we will indeed be lifted up and supported.

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This might sound simple enough. But letting go can seem pretty scary if we aren’t sure whether this God can really be trusted. After all, there might have been a time (maybe more than one) when you leaned back, confident that you would be caught in a protective embrace, and it felt like you got dropped onto the hard, cold concrete instead. So now you might wonder: Is God even there? And if so, is this a God who you can trust?

Even for those who intellectually assent to the idea of God’s goodness and love, experiences of profound peace and deep trust are likely to be fleeting. You might enjoy wading out into the spiritual waters, savoring some experiences in which you perceive divine goodness or presence. You might even like to swim in those waters, propelled along partly by your own efforts. But what about when a time comes when you really need to trust—to just lie there, quiet and still and vulnerable, unable to see where you’re going? Are you willing to take the chance, trusting that God will be reliable?

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There’s no question that for most people, a deep sense of trust can be elusive. Whether we believe in a loving God or not, most of us hold back at some level.

I’m not talking about reckless decisions here; of course we need to use discernment. But if you are willing, there might be a real sense of adventure in being willing to lean back and let go, even if just for a few moments, holding on to the hope that something—or someone—might actually be there for you. It’s true that you might not know for sure, so there is some risk. You might even feel certain that there is no one and nothing there. But is it possible that you could still be surprised?

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Many people talk about taking a leap of faith. But this metaphor can make it seem like you have to jump off a cliff. Do you really need to fling yourself into an abyss? Is that level of drama really necessary? Maybe all that you need to do is wade out into the pool. Then, if you are willing, you can lean back and see what happens.

How will you ever find out if you never venture out into the water? Or if you keep those feet firmly lodged on the bottom of the pool?

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About the Author
Julie Exline, Ph.D.

Julie Exline, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. She is a licensed psychologist and a certified spiritual director.

Julie Exline
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