Swimming without distractions
I’m not sure exactly how, or why, but as a young girl, in my early teens, I swam. Not just splashing about swimming, but I trained, doing lap after lap under the compulsion and fear of my coach.
Eventually, mainly because of a boy, I was convinced to swim competitively. However, being a small Asian girl, my physique was not to any advantage compared to my peers; my only upper hand, therefore, was my stamina and sheer stubbornness. Somehow I was relatively successful at Butterfly and had the opportunity to represent my team in that category. However, when I approached my more rebellious teen years I slowly gave up swimming and opted for a more secretive party life.
Needless to say, all my days of training comprised of doing various drills that pushed one’s physical extremes of cardio-vascular fitness. The kind of fitness I developed in my teen years are still with me and are revivable to this day. Similarly, my stroke that was produced by all those drills is ingrained in my muscle memory.
On the rare occasion that I jump into a pool to relive those early days where I used to swim well, my mind is absent from thinking much about what I’m doing; I am on autopilot. Instead of concentrating on where my arm is entering and leaving the water or thinking about my form, I can simply swim and only focus on going long, hard and well.
The pursuit of Christ in the water
Now when I train as an adult, I do not have any competitors of peers to gauge myself with to monitor my ‘success.’ Without competition being a motivation, I am left finding the only pure and holy drive there is, which is the pursuit of God glory. In those moments where I am in the water when I’m tired, a precious thought sometimes interrupts my thinking and persuades me to persevere through the exhaustion and keep going just for Him. Sometimes, when I swim just for Him, and every secret thought and motion of my body is determined to continue for His glory, I am enveloped by my concealed worship of Him in the water.
The pure and Holy race
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV)
On those rare occasions where I am freed from the idea of seeking my glory and can momentarily pursue Him and His name when I am emptied of myself and the usual weight of sinful wanting, I feel alive in Him. And sometimes, just sometimes, when I am emptied of myself, the Spirit surprises me and reminds my soul that He is well pleased with me.
It’s not that God is pleased with my swimming, or satisfied with the posture of my heart. God is already pleased with me through the finished work of Christ. It’s more the case that when my heart is right before God, my heart and mind is unveiled to hear the truth that is already there. My heart and mind can more clearly perceive and understands God’s existing pleasure in me when the murky distractions of sin are apart from me. When I am not distracted by the pursuit of other things, I can more clearly hear God’s approval of me.
Swimming well in the everyday
In those sweet times, I can leave the water reminded that if my day-to-day life were more like my time in the water, I would have far more joy. If only I were able to run through life without the constant comparisons and imagined competition with others, I could move through life without the angst and anxiety I tend to feel. If I were only able to simply run with no other goal than towards the upward prize and goal, that is Christ; I could live a life with a pure motivation. If only I were to not cheat myself of true joy by settling for the reward of an imagined and earthly prize of tangible success, wealth or temporal, and comparatively feeble form of happiness; if only I could purely run this race of life just for Him and not for myself.
Not earning His pleasure, but realising it
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)
At the same time, I am encouraged. I am encouraged in everything I do I can have the same pure joy, motivation and pleasure in doing it to the glory of God. I can commute and walk my dog to the glory of God, work at my desk and do my laundry to the His glory. I can do it all, not to gain His approval, but I can do it all in His approval of my through the work of Christ. It’s not that I earn His approval, but when my motivations and my heart is set right before God, I can more clearly understand His love for me.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV)