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?

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