It’s one of the fondest memories of my life…the one where I almost died.
Cough cough...it was "sprint" distances, before you become too impressed.
Maria and I had trained together that summer, which was one of the only slices of time in my whole adult life that I got to live close to a sister! So fun!
The shirts we made ourselves were great, celebrating Mom and her sister who had both, at that point, beaten breast cancer. "They beat breast cancer, we can beat this!" our backs boasted. Little did we know that just a year later Mom would lose that fight. But on that day, her death was nowhere near my mind as her huge smile greeted us at the finish line--but mine was!!
I am not the greatest swimmer. I trained at the pool with my sister who effortlessly zipped through the water, while I huffed and puffed my way through every. slow. lap. So it's not like I jumped stupidly into a lake with no preparation involved. But the lake was very different than the pool, with it's neatly marked lanes...and of course I couldn't touch the bottom.
There are these people called "swim angels" who are out in the middle of the lake with floaty noodles to help anyone who needs a little break. I was comforted knowing these people would be out there, and I did know how to swim, and of course I had trained, and I thought I would be ok.
But very early on I realized I was not going to be ok. The splashing all around me was so chaotic--all the people--all the water I was breathing in as I was trying to break away from the crowd! I wondered if I was hyperventilating. I tried to calm myself down with self-talk. "You're going to be ok...you're going to be ok." I physically tried to catch my breath. I floated on my back, and each time another swimmer passed me, splashing more water into my mouth, I'd panic again, flipping over to breathe. I looked around to humbly accept a noodle from a swim angel...but no one was free--every single one was taken. What do you do when they're not available? Wait in line in the middle of the lake? I think you're supposed to wave your arms over your head to alert a lifeguard that you're drowning...I was too embarrassed to do that. But I needed help. Then in my panic I imagined myself dying and someone delivering my wedding ring to my husband of only one year, and I decided to quit being embarrassed and make sure I lived. I spotted a lifeguard way out of the way and began to swim over to her. I cared nothing about my time. I admit, I did care a little about my pride, but again--the living thing pushed me through the pride thing.
I rested there for a while, holding on to that dear lifeguard's buoy. I didn't even make eye contact with her. I'm not sure how long it was, but I rested until I knew I was ok to go on again. I made it to shore, where my sweet sister waited for me to continue on together, and we eventually made it to Mom's beaming face as she embraced her sweaty daughters at the finish line.
I'm reminded of this story because life has felt a little bit like I might drown lately. I'm using my regular go-to's...the self-talk trying to convince myself everything is ok. The lay-on-my-back for as long as I can in my bed tactic. Even the regular "angels" in my life that usually give me rest just don't seem to be working lately...exercise...friendship...cleaning...control...they're just not available or working right now for that little fix I think I need, and I'm being forced to wave my arms in the air and humbly admit--I need a lifeguard.
God's so gently reminding me that I can choose to not drown. He's nudging me to swim to Him as my only source of rest and life. But how to really-really do that is such a mystery. Isn't it? If only there were just a formula to follow...things that have worked for me in the past.
This week, there was a day I clung to this buoy, these words that have so often held me up: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13) And the reminder of these words, this truth, mystical as it is...(because it is)...allowed me to catch my breath that day.
I am certainly not ready to swim to shore yet. I have more resting to do. I might just let the Lifeguard carry me there, actually. Yeah.
Yeah, I think that sounds good.