Saturday, August 1, 2009

Not Sure What to Think about This Swimming Thing

Okay folks. It's official. I really fear swimming. I forced myself to swim again today and every fiber in my being resisted the entire five-minute drive to the pool. Today was better in some respects and worse in others. The pool was almost empty which I liked because it made me feel like people weren't sitting in the bleachers doubled over in laughter at the lady in the mom-suit flailing wildly in the water. The lap pool had a few random swimmers and I was hopeful that I wouldn't run into anyone in my lane. Somehow, in spite of my best efforts, I still managed to slap the girl sharing my lane and crash into both the lane divider and the wall when I was doing a back stroke. Note to Newberg Swimmers: swim at your own risk if I'm in the pool.

My goggles have been fogging up and leaking and they continued to give me grief today, but at least I had a legitimate reason to stop at the side of the pool and pant while I tried to fix them. I tried the spitting trick but I'm so nervous in the water that my mouth was all dried out and I couldn't come up with enough spit to de-fog them.

I warned the life guard before I entered the pool that I am amazingly bad at swimming and that if he wanted entertainment fodder for the next lunch break, he should keep his eyes peeled on my lane. Then I jumped into the water. Gave myself a mental pep-talk and forced myself to push off the wall in a front crawl. I swam two consecutive laps of front crawl and managed to not inhale the pool or panic to the point of coming out of the stroke to tread water while I mentally went bezerk. I connected a lap of side stroke to the two previous laps to catch my breath the flipped to my back for one lap of the aforementioned back stroke. By the time I touched the wall (and I managed to not ram my head into it), I was ready for a break.

My back stroke, in theory, made four consecutive laps of swimming for Jodi. Something to be celebrated. If you don't count the lengthy turns I made every time I saw the wall, grabbing hold just long enough to get stability and plunge back into the water. Since my goal is to do a triathlon, my stupid brain wouldn't let me celebrate four laps. Instead, it jumped right to, "Well, if that was an open water swim, you'd be in trouble. You were hanging on the edge of the pool for a few seconds each time and how will you ever do an open water swim not to mention you'll be swimming in a dark hole of blackness with other swimmers slamming into you instead of a chlorinated pool with lap lines that you can actually see." Clearly self-defeating thoughts but ones that were floating around none-the-less.

While I was beating myself up mentally, the nice life guard asked if I was open to some pointers. His main tip for my front crawl was to put my face deeper in the water. Imagine that. Apparently my fear of breathing underwater is obvious from the surface. I'm keeping my head more toward the surface which sinks my lower extremity further under the water, rendering my kick less effective and making it more difficult to cover ground quickly while I'm swimming. He told me to plunge my head way into the water and focus on looking at the bottom of the pool which would naturally bring my legs closer to the surface of the water and make my kick more effective.

We talked just long enough for me to remember that water gets in my nose and back of my throat just enough to make me feel queasy when I stop swimming. Long enough for me to remember how much I hate going underwater. Long enough for the dread of breathing under water to surface to the forefront on my mind. Long enough to make me TERRIFIED of trying a lap or two or three of front crawl with my new coaching tips.

I forced myself to push off the wall and sure enough, when I put my head down it seemed like I was flying in the water. The stroke just came together. But it also felt longer to get my head out of the water to catch a breath and the mental games were in overdrive. I struggled mentally to finish the first lap and forced myself to start a second one. Several times on the second lap, I panicked to the point of pulling out of the stroke and treading water while the demons in my head reeked havoc. I finished the lap, but it wasn't pretty. Did a lap of breast stroke to try to get comfy underwater again, but couldn't seem to come back from the panic swirling in my brain.

I stopped and tried to collect my thoughts. Find peace and calm. To conquer the craziness in my head. Told myself I had to finish strong with one more lap of front crawl and that winners don't quit. Just do it, like Nike. Pushed off the wall, panicked before I finished one stroke, and headed back to the wall. When I got out of the pool, I felt defeated. Frustrated that I let my mind limit what my body can physically do.

I'm not sure what to think about this swimming thing. I've been processing it all afternoon. But I know there's a lesson here that God is trying to teach me that I don't want to miss. As I've written this post, God keeps bringing to mind these verses in II Corinthians 10:4-5. They say, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Do I think me learning to swim is a matter of spiritual significance? No. But I do know that Satan loves to defeat us. To suck the life out of us. To sap our motivation and make us apathetic. I also know that he gets a sick pleasure of messing with our minds. Whispering lies to us disguised as truth that nail us in our most vulnerable areas. Fear of being underwater is a stronghold in my life and Satan doesn't want to let it go.

I also know that people every day across the world swim. And most of them don't drown. I know it's possible to breathe underwater and not swallow the entire pool. I know that God wants me to have victory. To not live in fear. I know that God's desire for my life is peace, not anxiety.

So when I measure the truth against Satan's lies, I realize I need to take captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. I need to make those anxiety-inducing thoughts toe the line in obedience to the freedom that Christ offers. I need to tell Satan he's a fat, toothless dog with no power over me. And when I'm done telling him off, stick my face in the water and swim already.

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