“I feel like I can’t breathe,” I said to my friend, perching the goggles I borrowed from him on top of my head.
“I think you’re breathing unnecessarily,” he said coaching in the water next to me. “You don’t have to breathe on every stroke. Just when you need to.”
“Well, I like breathing,” I said defensively.
He had taken on the sizeable task of teaching me how to swim. I first learned as an infant with my mom at a local Y and I swam at various summer camps until junior high. But somehow I managed to not set foot in a pool to practice swimming in 10 years. Now, at 24-years-old, my primary concern was not drowning.
“You don’t have to lift your head all the way out of the water. Just enough for you to get a sip of air,” he said. “If you do then you’ll break your momentum and have to use more energy to propel yourself forward.”
But getting a sip of air turned into gasping for air and gulping water. All of that, of course, caused me to stop, sputter, wipe my face with pruning fingers and try again.
Days after my first lesson I kept thinking about what went wrong. The only thing I could think of was that I was so focused on not drowning, that I couldn’t concentrate on moving forward.
Feels like the story of my life, at the moment.
I graduated from college, started my first full-time paid newspaper editing/reporting job and quit my first full-time paid newspaper editing/reporting job all within about two years. Now I spend many of my daytime hours job hunting, researching graduate programs, taking breaks to read scripture, exercising, working on my blog and snacking incessantly. In other words, I’m jobless, masters degree-less and growing increasingly penniless which all make me feel quite aimless.
I feel, in life, like I did in that pool during my first lesson: Gasping for air every second I get because I’m focused on trying not to fail rather than on moving forward.
“You don’t need to breathe on every stroke. Just when you need to.” He could have added to that sentence “and let God do the rest” and I would have passed the collection basket.
As I go from day to day seeking direction from God, I repeatedly come back to the concept of having faith. I took a look at Psalm 31:23 recently, “Love the Lord, all His faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to Him, but the proud he pays back in full.”
This scripture brings two thoughts to mind. One, humility is a major component of faith. Two, the word “preserves” never sounded so good.
I’m thinking, based on Psalm 31:23, that faith is all about submitting to the fact that you don’t know it all and clinging to God who does know it all, and thereby trusting that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. It is in our faithfulness that God responds with preservation.
Which brings me to this note to self: Breathe, when you need to. Continue to move. Trust that God takes care of the rest. And for the love of God, stop trying not to fail. You will fail sometimes. What will you do after that? Give up or keep going?
I’m happy to report that after five weeks of swimming lessons I finally made it from one end of the pool to the other without stopping. I’m not sure what clicked in my head that day, but I think it had a lot to do with good teaching, consistent practice, and finally focusing on moving forward instead of the possibility of drowning.
Life application? I’d say so.