Keep Swimming

One-hundredth of a second.

We thought she had bested it by at least two-tenths. That’s what the electronic board told us. She had worked hard for it. Her teammates congratulated her. The previous team record holder congratulated her and seemed genuinely happy for her.

But the final, official result said she was .01 away. We should have waited for the official result.

.01 stings just a little bit.

Her teammates rallied around her. The record holder, 15 or 16 years old, again stepped up and spoke to her one-on-one and told her what an awesome swimmer she is for her age. She spoke other words of encouragement to my girl. This teenager was so kind, how can we not appreciate that her name is still on the board?

I got to witness my daughter’s sweet spirit in the face of tantalizing disappointment. She would have rather been two seconds off than .01. Somehow it hurts a little more when it’s that close. She didn’t throw a fit or act out, but I saw on her face a touch of sadness, a tenderness. I told her it was ok to be disappointed, but not to get stuck there.

Thankfully, she listened.

I’ve only been a swim mom for the past three summers. Still a bit of a novice compared to many. When I volunteer—because we have to, otherwise I would be sitting back kicking my heels up—I time. When I time, I tend to pick the “slow” lanes, because the kids, as implied, swim slower seed times and I don’t have to be completely on my game all the time. Besides, these lanes aren’t used for every single heat for the next three-ish hours, so I get to chill some.

These lanes can be interesting, because every once in a while, there will be a kid in the lane who actually wins the race. That kid just swam his or her heart out. And won. Against all expectations. They might usually swim a second or so behind the first seed, which in swim years is an eternity, but somehow they pulled out an upset. And the smile—oh that smile when they realize what just happened—that smile could light up the sun.

Usually though, in these lanes are the slower swimmers. Sometimes the kids are very slow. Sometimes coming in 10, 15, 30 seconds or more behind all the others. Sometimes the kids, usually the youngest in the meet, in these lanes barely make it across. They may stop to hang onto the lane line, then start swimming again. Then stop and hang onto the line for a few seconds, then start swimming again. Come on honey, you can do it. You’re almost done. You’re so close, keep coming.

Oh my, how such big determination comes from such little ones. The ones who struggle and take forever getting across the pool almost always receive a standing ovation and cheers from everyone around the pool. You made it little guy. You did it! Good job.

But doesn’t all that cheering and clapping teach kids that it’s good to not do well?

Not ever.

Every single kid there knows they have to finish the race. I have not yet witnessed a kid who didn’t. The kids also know the goal is to swim the right stroke in the fastest time possible. They don’t try to be the slowest and nobody likes to get DQ’d. They don’t try to be the one who struggles, but with practice, their stroke will improve, they can get better, they can go farther, they can swim faster. They may never be the kid who wins, but they still swim knowing they have to finish the race.

In this thing called life, to finish the race, you need a good team. Friends who celebrate your victories. Friends who comfort you in disappointment and grief. Friends you cheer on. Friends you comfort. A place where, even when there’s competition, everybody still encourages the best in each other and sticks out a steady hand when life gets rough.

When you’re living your race and not sure you’re going to make it, stop for a moment, grab a line, take a deep breath, gather some strength and determination, then get going again. It won’t always be this way, this hard, this long. It may never be quite easygoing either, but in time, you’ll master skills that help the process along. You’ll gain heart and strength and wisdom.

During those most difficult times, when you can barely breathe and have to grab a line, can you hear God at the end of lane coaxing you on? Maybe not, but He is.

Come on child, you can do it. You’re almost done. You’re so close, keep coming.

Look for Him at the end of the lane and keep going. The end is not as far off as it seems. Can’t you imagine all of heaven clapping and cheering when you finally finish that race?

You made it. You did it! Good job!


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses, let us strip off the weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us [swim*] with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a NLT


*the verse actually says “run with endurance” but given the subject matter, I playfully inserted swim. Don’t lose your mind over it.

DQ’d = disqualified

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