Thursday, September 19, 2013

In The Water - Finding Courage in Times of Trouble

On Sunday I finished an olympic distance triathlon.  But I almost quit 100 yards into the swim because terror gripped me in a way that is hard to describe.  Out of nowhere.  Completely irrational.  Paralyzing panic.  

Terror screamed, "GET OUT OF THE WATER NOW!" 

Wanna know the crazy part?  I was in no danger. I have covered a mile in the pool at least a dozen times pre-race.  Carissa was swimming inches away from me.  My husband and friend were standing on a pier a few feet away. A rescue boat was shadowing us as we swam around the lake.  I had several outlets available to help me in peril.  

In spite of this, I felt engulfed in a raging storm, suffocating under the weight of the terror. 

(Click here to watch a video of what fear looks like for me.)

Before the swim started YAHWEH, the God of the Israelites, brought to mind a verse from Isaiah 43.  

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."

"When."  Not "if."  Storms will come.  But YAHWEH is with me.

A few hours after the triathlon, we went to church.  (To read more about the triathlon, click here.) Our pastor was preaching from a text at the end of Mark chapter 6.  Jesus comes to his  "terrified" followers in the middle of a raging storm on a lake.   

Hmmm....  I know nothing about being in the water and being terrified.

He says,  
"Take courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid."

Then gets in the boat WITH them and calms their storm.

In the morning YAHWEH.  In the evening Jesus.  Same God.  Same message.  

"Do not be afraid.  I am with you."

It makes me cry to think that my God cares enough to be with me in the water - literally and figuratively.  In the water and once I was safely on shore, the message was the same. 

 You are not alone.  I am with you.  Take courage.   

You may be "in the water" right now.  Terror surrounds you.  Hope seems lost.  

Take courage.  Do not be afraid.  Jesus is with you in the water.

Jesus offers courage to not give up.  Freedom from fear.  And victory once your feet are safely on the sandy shore.  

(Click here to watch a video of what victory looks like for me.)

To Him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Step Into the Water - Taking God at His Word and Obeying Him

I'm two weeks out from competing in an Olympic distance triathlon.  It's no secret that swimming terrifies me used to terrify me.  With help from God I am slowly but surely gaining confidence in the water and overcoming panic one swim session at a time.  Isn't God good to care about the little things?

Earlier this month Curt and I escaped for a weekend away in Central Oregon.  We immersed ourselves in the beauty of the magnificent mountains, high desert and lakes that draw people from all over the country to Central Oregon.  We camped near Elk Lake, a "natural body of water in the central Cascade Range.  Nearly 4,900 feet above sea level, the lake is part of a volcanic landscape about 25 miles west-southwest of Bend along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway."  
Elk Lake with South Sister and Broken Top
An open water swim was on the agenda for the weekend.  I needed practice swimming in open water before the triathlon.  My primary purpose was to gauge the level of anxiety/panic I experienced, making me more educated about what to expect on race day.  Curt would swim with me to be an encouragement and support in the water.

The morning of our swim was gorgeous.  We ate a good breakfast and drove to Beach, the day use area for Elk Lake.  The setting was serene and beautiful.  The South Sister (that we had just summited the day before) and Broken Top reflected in the still, calm water.  I put on my wet suit and nervously meandered down to the edge of the lake.  My toes barely touched the water before the waves of nerves and anxiety washed over me.  I stood pensively on the water's edge, frozen by fear.

I began to mentally quote a verse from Paul's second letter to Timothy.  "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind (also translated self discipline)." II Timothy 1:7 

God did not give me a spirit of fear.  He gave me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind.  No matter what I encountered in the water, Jesus was with me.  I silently asked God for His help to overcome fear and then Curt and I slowly stepped into the water.

We swam for a whopping eleven minutes.  ELEVEN MINUTES!  In those eleven minutes I had more opportunities than I wanted to practice overcoming fear.  Some of it was rational (dizziness from the altitude).  Most of it (putting my face in the water) was irrational.  In each situation, the Holy Spirit helped me work through the panic to a place of peace.  Every time I rejected fear and chose instead to discipline my mind was a victory.  Once we were safely back on shore, we did a little happy dance.  God was with us in the water.

I've been meditating a lot on Paul's wise reminder to Timothy and our experience at Elk Lake.  Last week at church, our pastor defined faith as "taking God at His word and obeying him."  It all clicked with that one definition.

Jesus never promised his followers an easy life.  In fact he promised just the opposite.  Following Him would require sacrifice.  Self discipline.  Enduring suffering with faith and perseverance.  But still He invited those who were drawn to him to follow anyway - to set aside their own agenda and in exchange embrace life that is really life.  Part of this abundant life includes the self discipline required to obey, even when it's hard.

Faith means we take God at His word and obey.  Sometimes we just need to step into the water.

Is fear paralyzing you?  May I encourage you to take God at His word and get your feet wet?