Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Swimming in Open Water

Swimming in Open Water 05-18-09

Dcn Dale Matson

Last week, the U.S. open water swimming championships were held near Fresno, CA at nearby Millerton Lake. Participants came from all over the country with ages ranging from 18-84. The course was essentially an “out and back” marked in one eighth mile increments with large orange buoys anchored to the lake bottom. My wife and I train at Millerton Lake and volunteered to help our friends the race directors. We were stationed in Kayaks near each of the buoys along with others. We were there to help the swimmers stay on course and to assist if a swimmer got into any kind of trouble while swimming the course. There were four separate starts for the swimmers grouped by increasing age. The last person in the final age group was a 79 year old lady who was swimming in open water for the first time. She was having navigation problems in the open water. If you are a pool swimmer, there are lines in the bottom of the pool for each lane and warning markers near the ends of the lanes to signal that the wall is near. Thus a pool swimmer can focus on swimming and turning. I believe it is a natural inclination of a Deacon to want to come along side someone who needs help, so I called to her to ask her name as she desperately swam in a fruitless zigzag pattern. “My name is Georgia from Texas” and I can’t see the buoys. She was beginning to panic with lots of water in front and underneath her. Most swimmers don’t consider that they could drown in a pool but there is something different about swimming in open water that can intimidate even an accomplished swimmer. I pulled alongside and offered to escort her the last three quarters of a mile with my Kayak. I told her to just keep me in sight on her breathing side and I would keep her in a straight line and on course. From time to time I needed to yell out to her to swim to her left or right to get back on course. I also yelled out encouragement that she could “do it” to bolster her sagging confidence. She made it to the finish line under the cutoff time with a renewed sense of self efficacy. She was filmed, interviewed and cheered, deserving the attention and adulation. She did not seek me out to thank me and that is fine because I was working for Christ.

What is the purpose of this story? How does it apply to your life? Is God calling you to come alongside someone else? If we are willing to be used by our Lord and use Him as our navigational reference point, He will give us the opportunity to come alongside others who struggle as they unexpectedly find they are swimming in the “open water” of real life. We can be the encouraging voice helping others that have lost their way. We can also help others by conducting our lives in a gracious way. By keeping our lives on course, others can be guided by our actions. Sometimes listening helps another speak a solution to their own problems. Sometimes when others simply know we are available to help them, they are able to remain independent and empowered.

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