The Beauty of Deep Water
I have a fear of deep water. I’m not afraid of water itself; in fact I have always loved to jump in the pool with my kids and walk along the beach as the ocean splashes over my toes. Not being able to see all the way through to the floor of the lake I’m in is what gets me. Random creatures skimming past my feet and legs while I float in the ocean totally unnerves me. A very large sea turtle once swam over the back of my legs as I was snorkeling on Maui. I didn’t think it was possible to scream while wearing a snorkel, but I sure tried! Some of my fear also centers around the fact that although I do love water, I am not a skilled swimmer. I can hold my own in the six foot end of the pool, but beyond that I flail and dog paddle to the side so I can hold on to the edge. As I recall these things about myself, it makes me shake my head and smile when I remember that last year I completed a mini triathlon with some of my friends.
I think a great deal of people assume they know themselves. Knowing myself and my fears of being touched by random critters while in deep water, and the fact that I can’t really swim all, should have led me to the conclusion that I should not attempt a triathlon of any sort. The mini triathlon that my cohorts and I wanted to complete included a 1/4 mile swim (in a lake), 12 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run. Did I mention I also don’t ride much and I don’t run? Another story for another time. One of my friends had completed life guard training as a young teen and the other friend grew up swimming in her grandparents’ pool every summer. I was clearly the amateur in the swimming department. We devised a plan that we would join the local YMCA and practice swimming. We figured out how many laps would equal a quarter mile. We donned swim caps, goggles, lap suits and then jumped in. Swimming came easily to my buddies, but not so much for me. I couldn’t get the hang of the front crawl. As I would turn my head to take a breath my feet would sink and I would gulp water. Other times I would work on my stroke and get water up my nose as I tried to avoid water in my mouth. I began to doubt whether I would be able to even complete the swim portion of the race.
What then? I resorted to about the only swim stroke I thought I could do; the side stroke. I had learned that particular swim stroke from my brothers’ Boy Scout leader as a kid. I remember him saying, “Pick an apple, put it in the basket. Pick an apple, put it in the basket”. The saying nudged my memory and brought me some relief in knowing that I could indeed, if not clumsily, do the sidestroke. I also was able to do a modified backstroke when I needed a break from water being too close to my face. So armed with my two swim strokes, I met up with my fellow racers to compete in the mini triathlon. We discovered that we could not swim together, since the swimmers were separated into age groups, and I was the oldest and was above the age bracket of my friends. I watched as my race buddies swam away from the shore as I stood and waited for my start time. Those of us waiting to start the final wave made small talk and shared some nervous laughs. The start gun went off and away we went. I had never swam with a group of people so close to me and going in the same direction. Very odd experience. I’m pretty sure I kicked someone in the head at one point. I slowly side stroked along as the other swimmers pulled ahead of me with smooth front strokes and powerful breaststrokes. Our wave was wearing bright orange swim caps. I would glance ahead to spot the large buoys that dictated our course. I could see all of the orange swim caps pulling farther and farther ahead.
As I fell farther behind, I felt a sense of panic setting in. I felt alone, and I was in deep water. I think a fish touched me. I tried not to think about it. “Pick an apple, put it in the basket. Pick an apple, put it in the basket” was running through my head. I kept swimming. I started praying, Please let me finish the swim, please let me make it out of the water without needing help. There were volunteers in canoes and kayaks out on the water on the course in case a swimmer needed help. If you swam to the boat and held on or got in, you were disqualified from the rest of the race. I looked for the shore as I rounded the final buoy of the triangular course. I could hear my family yelling - that meant I was closer! I swam and swam, oh so slow, but I swam. As I neared the exit point my husband yelled that I should be able to touch bottom. Low and behold I could! I felt heavy as I walked out of the water on my legs that felt like rubber. Most ran to the transition point for the cycling, but I could only walk. I was so very relieved that I had finished the swim. I was the very last person of our race out of the water that day, but I made it!
Swimming in deep, open water was challenging. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. Just as a lake or ocean has depth, so does a person. By trying something that seemed beyond what I was capable of, God allowed me to see parts of me that I never knew were there. It is hard to comprehend the things that lie beneath the surface. It would probably be easier to stay along the shore where you can see every pebble and shell below the rippling surface. Nothing new is gained by always staying in the shallows. Go ahead, swim in the deep, open water and be amazed at what you find.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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