Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
Sometimes it is sink or swim…….
but if all else fails, try surgery.
Every child has those things that they dread.
For some, it is fish sticks at Friday school lunch.
For others, it might be evening bath.
For me, it was Saturday mornings.
Now I know that sounds odd.
Saturday morning for most kids is a child’s paradise.
pajamas, cereal, and cartoons….
Not for me.
My parents scheduled me for Saturday swim lessons at the local pool.
I don’t recall being afraid of the water,
and I actually think I was swimming before this unfortunate idea creeped into their minds.
So there I was,
Saturday mornings 9-11am.
I dreaded going to the pool.
This was not a funfest of floaties, fishies, and fins.
This was serious business,
like I was in some aquatics boot camp.
I remember lining up in a row at the side of the pool
The teacher/drill sergeant would bark out the same command each week.
“Kickboards! 20 laps!
Last person does 21!”
The kickboard was the scourge of my life.
It was a hard pressed foam board
that you used to kick your way to the other side of the pool.
20 laps to a 5 year old might as well have been
Havana to Miami.
There were two things that made me hate this.
Actually there were three…….
One, I should have been seated on the floor at home eating me Lucky Charms at that time.
Two, Cindy (who was alphabetically by last name always next to me)
kicked (pun intended) everyone’s rear ends in this exercise.
I think Cindy was a dolphin in a former life.
And three, the kickboard owned me.
For some reason that defies all laws of physics and kinesiology,
every time, I would push off from the side wall
I would stall in mid pool.
As much as I kicked I would not propel forward.
In fact, I would actually move backwards.
It was if my legs were like the propellers in the Titanic
as they reversed motion to avoid the iceberg.
Both me and the Titanic were equally successful.
As I stalled out in mid pool the drill sergeant would yell…
“Kick those legs McDowell. Kick!”
It seemed strange to me that a grown man
could not see that I, an innocent child,
was already kicking my legs as fast and furiously as I could.
Meanwhile, Cindy the dolphin child, was lapping me for the third time.
When the drill sergeant wasn’t looking,
I would switch to a breaststroke kick to move forward.
As every other child eagerly hopped out of the pool
I was usually finishing lap number 4.
Even the drill sergeant gave up on the thought of me doing 21 laps
as he would have had to have stayed until evening.
Somewhere between the swimming through hula hoops challenge
and the diving for plastic coins contest,
I decided that I had had it.
So I did what any frustrated five year old would do.
I told them I had to leave early because my mother was having surgery that day.
It seemed like a foolproof excuse.
Who could argue that a child needed to be at mom’s bedside following surgery?
Plus the sympathy vote was overwhelming.
Either because the aquatics drill instructor was incredibly naive
or because he had had enough of me, I was excused to leave.
Because I grew up back in the day when we weren’t afraid of getting abducted,
I was allowed to leave the pool area with no adult supervision.
I remember hiding in the bath house wrapped in my Superman swim towel
waiting for someone to pick me up.
Fortunately it was Dad who did so,
thus avoiding the awkward explanation
of why Mom was chauffeur and surgery candidate all in one day.
I don’t remember much else about swimming lessons after that,
except for telling everyone the next week that my mom might need another surgery.
What I do know is that today I love to swim.
As a teenager, I took a lifesaving course.
While I never had to save anyone, I served as a lifeguard many times during those years.
Whether as an adult or child,
it is easy to give up on things that seem too difficult.
The Israelites would have never made it to the promised land
without leaders who trusted in the encouragement of God…..
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
David would never have become King of Israel
if he had succumbed to Saul and others who seeked to harm him.
“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me.
Fight against those who fight against me. Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’ “ Psalm 35: 1, 3b
The disciples could have easily given up and dispersed
had they not kept their eyes set upon Jesus…….
“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.’ “ Matthew 19:26
When we trust in Him,
God takes us to places in our lives
where we don’t think we can go.
Sometimes he gives us drill sergeants,
other times, quieter voices.
Either way, it comes down to trusting and obeying,
especially when it seems too difficult.
So don’t let the Cindys of the world discourage you
as they race past you.
The Lord has an intention for your life
and He will be faithful to complete it. (see Philippians 1:6)
It might be a while to get to lap 20,
but who knows,
there just might be some Lucky Charms at the end…….