I remember being so tired.
I was fifteen, and was swimming lap after lap, watching the wide black stripes under me go on for what seemed like miles. Each of us swimming would touch the wall, then keep pace, not allowing ourselves to stop at the wall and be disqualified. The clock kept ticking. The shallow area had kids off in the distance, laughing, having a carefree time. We were on a mission, and it was laps. It was laps that went in circles. Not a finish line, just circles. We were to swim until the instructor said to stop. That was the magical finish line. One word. There was no view. There was no one cheering. There was nothing but a few teens and endless black stripes in the water. I was testing for a high level of swim certification and part of that test was endurance. Lap after seemingly endless lap in an Olympic-sized pool, and I was sure no Michael Phelps. I remember wanting to stop. Badly. But I had placed myself under the direction of the instructor, and the word was Swim. The word hadn’t changed just because I reached a wall or was tired. When I reached the wall, the word was still Swim. When I was tired, the word was still Swim. When my lungs hurt and my arms and legs hurt, and my freestyle form drooped from tiredness, the word was still Swim. So I swam.
It’s come back to me these days, those laps have. I remember how many times I had to return. Re-turn. Turn around again. Do it another time. And another. And do it more after that.
When a swimmer swims a lap and touches a wall, he barely touches it, and then flips completely around and keeps going. Laps don’t take you on a scenic journey. You finish one, and then you flip against the wall and you do it all over again. If a swimmer is going to do more laps, if they plan to Return, that wall has to immediately become a non-issue. At my tiredest point in those laps that day, the walls became my friend. I had something to help propel my strokes. Swim, reach the wall, return to your stroke.
Not one of us poked our head out and started treading water and said, “Hey, um, hello? Yes, all these laps so far? So…we’ve counted how many and it’s a lot. This distance kind of seems sufficient to us, so we were kind of wondering what you were thinking here? I mean, don’t get us wrong. We love your passion for our swimming, but we really weren’t clear on the strategy of why this is taking FOREVER. What if we call it a day? And besides that, we hit walls on a regular basis down here. Not sure if you saw that part or not. But, uh, yeah, so we are listening and all, but we were just wanting to let you know, um, respectfully and all…uh, this is getting ridiculous.”
Not a chance.
We wanted to qualify.
Return. Return. Return.
I remember something unique about that day, and it was the instructor’s feet. As we swam, we could only see a little ways up and there were always feet right above on the pavement. Never only at the walls. Never only at the start. Never off in a deck chair, with an unseen voice barking starts and stops with a lemonade in her hand. The feet were always walking beside us, keeping pace as we swam. We heard a few extra words like, “Keep going. C’mon. Nope, watch your lines, keep inside. Go. Keep going. Keep going.” but it was only to support the One Word. Swim.
There is something enduringly beautiful happening when He speaks and we obey. We trust, our walls become our springboards, and we grow closer and closer to the Feet above us, ever walking with us, towards us, for us, to LOVE US.
This is not any old endless drill.
This qualifies us for something else in His heart for us.
His word to us? It’s Spoken Beauty over our lives. It’s direction in the craziness. It’s that help we are craving when our goggles fill up with water and our lungs begin to burn.
But we must know this:
He will stretch us.
He will challenge us.
He will push us to do things we never thought we could.
He will re-make us.
And when we are ready He will lead us out into some wild blessings, into dreams fulfilled, and into a larger heart and life than we could ever have had on our own.
“…Lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes, for you shall expand on the right hand and on the left.” Isa. 54: 2,3
“I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.” Ps. 119:32