Don’t Look Down! Swim directly towards land! Don’t Look Down! Swim Directly Towards Land! I stood in the midst of 500+ swimmers on Saturday, listening to those words being repeated over and over again, as I prepared to jump 12 feet off a ferry into the fast moving water of the Delaware Bay. Looking around at the other swimmers I thought to myself “Why did I think this was a good idea?”
Just hours before I had told my husband and my sister that I was having second thoughts and I didn’t want to do this race. I had never done an open water swim before and I didn’t care that I had spent months training, doing drills, braving the freezing cold pool. I was seriously terrified. I thought my plea to skip out would fall on sympathetic ears. Not so. Their response as we pulled into the shuttle lot for the athletes? “Too late now.”
Clenching my wetsuit as I waited to board the bus at 4:45 A.M. I looked back hoping my husband would say “Never mind! Let’s go get breakfast.” Instead he told me “I’m so proud of you!! You’re fearless.” To which I gave him a smile, hoping I looked as fearless as he thought I was.
During the two hour ferry ride I passed the time talking with other swimmers, getting their ideas on the best way to jump and not loose my goggles and how to let the ocean current carry me away from the boat.
When it was my turn, I walked to the edge of the ferry, waited for my cue, I didn’t look down and I jumped.
The current was strong and fast and it was supposed to push us forward and to the left. But the ocean can’t be tamed and I shot forward and to the right. Once I course corrected I forgot about the jump, the water temperature, my fear. One, two, three breathe right. One, two, three breathe left. One, two, three, four, five, breathe and sight forward. Stroke after stroke I methodically pulled myself towards land.
Then something happened. I got inside my own head. I started looking around to see where the other swimmers were. Were they close to me, was I ahead of some, did I pass anyone or did anyone pass me while my face was in the water? I took my eyes off the buoys, I inhaled salt water, choked and got off course…by a quarter of a mile. Once I realized what was happening, I had to mentally tell my self to stop worrying about my place in the water and just swim. That time I spent looking around cost me. It added to my finish and I exerted more energy than was needed. Lesson learned. Swim towards land and don’t look around.
It’s hard to describe the feelings I had coming out of the water. I was winded and worn out, covered in sand with the taste of salt water in my mouth but knowing that I DID it! I jumped 12 feet, I swam, and I wasn’t last. And then I heard him. The cheers and shouts from my husband drowned out all the other spectators and family members. He was beaming! He was as excited as I was. He grabbed me and kissed me sand all over my face and salt water in my hair. “I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!! I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!”
The whole time I was in that water, I knew that Toby would be there waiting, even if no one else was with him, even if I was dead last and all the other spectators had left, he would be there. If I had to crawl across the finish line, he would be there, ready to embrace me and celebrate with me as if I had set an Olympic record.
I wonder if that’s what our finish line in heaven is going to be like. We cross it, worn out and tired, covered in muck from the world, breathless, some of us adding miles to our journey because we strayed off course, but when we cross it, whether we are first, middle or last, will the Father and Son be standing there cheering for us? Screaming our names, beaming as wide as we are and beyond proud of us? Yes. I think they will.
Our race is just that, a race. Races aren’t easy. They can be crowded and full of all kinds of people and personalities. Injuries happen. People get pushed down and stomped on. Bikers wreck and take out twelve other riders around them. Swimmers choke on water and end up treading water in order to catch their breath. Not every finish is going to be picture perfect. Our running form falters, we get tired, we get dirty, we get off course and add miles to our finish time, but the most important thing is that we FINISH.
That is being Stunningly Strong. Jumping into this God life, pushing ourselves to keep going in the face of fatigue and set backs, injuries and mess-ups. We are strong because we are keeping our eyes on the prize and doing whatever it takes to cross that finish line and receive our reward.
“I have fought the good fight. I have FINISHED the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
ps: Shout out to my husband, Delmo Sports and Kaenon photography for the race photos.