Are You a Shark or a Water Lily?

I’m a water lily, but I’ve learned how to swim with the sharks.

The neat thing about water lilies is they don’t have to move much.  They like the still, quiet water, like a pond, and they just sit there looking pretty.  Their real strength is underneath, below the surface.  Their root system under the flower attaches itself to the soil beneath, sometimes as deep as six feet.  Some girls get water lily tattoos signifying “purity of heart.”

Sharks, on the other hand, are good swimmers.  They keep moving to breathe and stay afloat.  They have sharp teeth and they’re sensitive to motion and attracted to blood.  They appear out of nowhere and circle their prey!

I wanted to be on the church’s Women’s Ministry Board because they planned fun activities for the women in the large church I attended.  They organized shopping trips to New York!  They planned spring teas, prayer meetings, fall retreats, Bible Studies, support groups and mom’s meetings in the park.

They chose me!  They gave me work to do in an area I love—communication!   

Summer arrived, the time for planning the fall retreat.  We girls on the board piled into a large van and headed north scoping out resorts that would be a good fit for our women’s gathering.  We spent long evenings together praying and brainstorming. 

The president asked me if I completed a rough copy of the retreat flyer.  I proudly placed my doozy of a draft on her notepad with copies for all the board members.  Then it happened!  She took out her red marker scratching out all my superb verbiage, changing my font, scribbling in the margins and basically asking me to start all over and recreate my masterpiece in her image.  Everyone agreed.  On to the next order of business….

I opened my email the following morning.  Surprise!  I read the letter of apology from Mrs. President with copies to all the board.  She couldn’t sleep that night because she tore into my first flyer attempt like a shark chewing its prey. *My interpretation.*

I’ll admit sometimes things offend me, but I expected, as a writer, to redo it and redo it until everybody approved my copy.  However, I wasn’t going to tell them that.  God was dealing with these bullies and it was an opportunity for me to have some fun.

I replied:  Thank you, Madam President, for your apology and I humbly accept it though it is not necessary.  I am happy to make the changes and take no offense.  Everyone’s input is valuable to me.  It’s a privilege to serve Jesus with accomplished women—seasoned women of God and I respect each one of you.  I perceive that you see me as delicate; perhaps a water lily, but I assure you ladies I am not shatterable and I can swim with the sharks!

“You’ve Got Mail!” notifications streamed in all morning at my desk.   The board members’ hilarious replies kept me smiling from ear to ear as they gave it right back to me.

God used me and my sarcasm to crumble walls. *My interpretation.*

I knew I passed my initiation test because I received long, loving hugs from each lady shark at that church the following Sunday morning.  Our relationships, always good, reached a new level: vulnerably great.

And for the rest of you:  Don’t be so quick to judge a feminine water lily.  We’ve got a strong support system, underneath, where you can’t see.  

This post links to:  Tell Me A True Story   


;Holly Barrett

Everyday Jesus


  1. I had to drop what I was doing as I just sat down (eating :)...after doing my chores. I saw you post and decided to go online rather than use my phone to comment. You just made my day and I know the Lord spoke through you! I want to thank you because your post helps me calms down.

    You see, I could still feel my BP up until this morn even though the incident happened yesterday. A not so gentle man cut me off when I was about to enter the freeway (his light was red, ours was green). My reflex was to honk as I almost hit him. Only for his car to keep its snail like speed though we were entering the on-ramp. Next thing I knew, he was doing all these nasty moves (cutting off many cars just so he could be in front of me and then cleaned his windshield so that the water could hit me behind him). Despite me slowing down and trying to keep cool, all I could think was that he saw me vulnerable. A small (well, I'm not sure how "small" :) woman, all alone in the car. No one to defend her. But never I doubted the Lord was with me. I knew the pressure building up in me never grew and I managed to maintain my cool.

    Anyway, I think he got scared because I tried to take a picture of his license plate but he probably thought I was recording him. Off, he went as if he had injected some nitrous oxide to the snail car. I looked at the pic at home and saw how the plate was blurry. But the incident was so vivid! I thanked God I was able to get out of that event. I usually put a note on important pics I took that would remind me later. Instead I found myself asking "God, please search this man's heart..." I left it at that...

    I love that you maintained your cool despite the heat surrounding you. My situation and your situation brought me back to "Daniel"...

    "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God Whom we serve is able to save us..." (Daniel 3:17)

    Sister Mary, thank you again. It's cool to be a water lily especially if the roots go down deep in the Living Water. God bless and protect you always. Hope you didn't mind my "short" ;) comment. Be strong.

  2. I like the root system you have! You killed them with kindness, LOL, instead of perhaps handling it aggressively back to them. A great lesson to share with all of us :)


  3. I desire to be a water lily with deep roots - and yes I have had to swim with the Sharks. I tend to be too wordy at times. Perhaps that is what Mrs. President wanted it more simple.
    I had to smile at your reaction and the response from the ladies along with hugs later. Thanks for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

  4. This was awesome. So glad you didn't get angry at the moment but waited for it to play out. God will give us wisdom for situations such as this if we just wait! Visiting from Tell me a true story today!

  5. That's classic, Mary! Love how you sat back and let God direct your loving (funny!) response. Wouldn't you have loved to see the expression on Mrs. President's face?

  6. Oh that is one of the GOOD stories, without a doubt!! There are tigers in churches too, and I love the water lily response... love it!! Good fyou Mary.

  7. Its' wonderful how you allowed the Holy Spirit to guide your reaction and your response. I am reminded that there are "tests" of character everywhere. Taking a "water-off-a-duck's-back" approach is exemplary. I found the story you shared not only amusing but very true to life for most of us. It's ultimately not what happens to us, but how we choose to respond. Loved it!

  8. Oh, Mary...what a wonderful communicator you are! You have no idea how timely this has been for me. Water lilies can be viewed as someone who needs help all the time...from the outside. I'll leave it at that, but I wanted you to know what an encouragement this was to me this morning. xo

  9. I admire your wisdom. There is need for wisdom among our Ministry leaders. You have demonstrated that you are a Godly leader.
    Your team have loads to learn from you, thank God you are there.
    PS: I learnt a lot from your experience.
    God Bless

  10. Hi Mary! I didn't know that about water lilies, I just figured they floated loosely. Ha! Like the ducks whose feet keep furiously moving although they look so placid, the lily hides it's burrowing work.

    Good for you for keeping your cool, and not betraying your feelings. And your response was perfect! You can tell from the reaction you got that they all thought you were dealt with harshly, but opened not your mouth...sounds familiar. A Christ-like moment for you that gave such a huge witness!
    Love that, and I hope to be more like you :)

  11. Great post, Mary!! A touch of humor, but with so much truth! I suppose I'm a water lily most of the time, with a shark lurking under the surface. My sons used to play sports, and they always said that they got their *killer instinct* from the little woman screaming from the sidelines - me!!

    I think the challenge in life is to know when to speak up, and when to keep silent.

    And certainly, we can all learn how to be kind, gentle, and more tactful!!


  12. I have truly enjoyed this post this morning! Thank you for such an analogy on the water lily and the sharks. You handled everything with Christ-likeness and yet your message was taken seriously by other team members even with a little humor. You go girl! Love this post. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  13. I love love the way you tell a story!! You do have loads of wisdome!

  14. What a powerful lesson for those at the church, but for me today! The two pictures - the lily and the shark really show two completely different ways of approaching issues and choosing the ways of the water lily reminded me of being that lily years ago with my boss. Through that quiet strength, I won a fairly new boss to see my strengths and ways and we worked together so very well for years after.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  15. This totally makes me grin, Mary! I so appreciate you sharing it. Such a powerful (and humorous) lesson here. I applaud your candor and humility in response to Madam president's email.

    It take a strong woman rooted in grace to react like that. Kudos. And thanks for encouraging me to do the same!

  16. As usual, you made me smile. You have done so much for some many in so many places. I just winked my eye at this info and to you. Thanks so much.

  17. I love how you broke the ice with your humor:)

  18. What a great story. :) It's hard to leave our egos at the door, but it's good when we can. I used to co-write lyrics with a dear friend and our motto was we worked in a NPZ--No Pride Zone. We agreed to not be offended if the other saw room for improvement. It worked great.

  19. Great story Mary of God using you. I would work on any team you are on. Blessings.

  20. I don't think I could have handled the critic as well as you did. The lesson I learned from your post today: When we are humble and let God work, great things happen.

  21. I was wondering why I'd not read your blog lately and then I realized I had accidently removed yours from my blog list. It wasn't intentional. One day I was making some changes and before I realized it, I had deleted all of the blogs on my list. That is usually how I know when new posts are written by my blogging friends. I've slowly added ones as I remember so now I have yours back too.

    Having written all of that, I love your attitude! You are a water lily. And I'm so glad. Too many people get so easily offended in the church. We all have different temperaments but I know why we get along so splendidly Mary.

    Love you,

  22. Good Monday morn and what a way to start the breaking of dawn knowing there is a praying sister miles away who always joins me in this unseen battle. I just want to thank you and wish you a great week ahead as we take a day at a time, praying for the Lord to use us as His instruments for His glory. Thank you for praying for my work to have more sharks be tamed by His love and grace. Love you sister in Christ.

  23. I want to be a Water Lily. Is there room for all of us?

  24. I love this post:) You were really great and smart. What a wonderful group you are with too!

  25. Not sure what happened to my comment from last week?

    You did good, Mary. I tend to fail in those types of moments…

    It takes more strength and wisdom to let those things go than it is to rise up in our flesh… and fail…

    Thanks for the reminder and example.

  26. This is such a heartwarming post! In this day and age we certainly need to be able to swim with the sharks. Thank you so much for this post, full of encouragement and wisdom.


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