Faith and Family: Bet on Yourself

woman swimming in a pool

At the end of last year, my oldest sister, Beth, proposed to me that we start swimming together at the gym as a way to hold each other accountable. It seemed like a great idea. I had been looking for some accountability when it came to exercise, and I know that swimming is an excellent exercise for those with multiple sclerosis. 

Now, before I go any further, let me note that said older sister was a literal champion swimmer for a good part of her life, and once saved this writer from drowning. Why I said yes, I’ll never know. 

When it came time for the first workout, I jumped in the pool and raced off the wall. Halfway down the lane, I thought maybe Beth would need to save me from drowning again. I made it back to the shallow end and stopped to catch my breath. When Beth returned for what seemed like her fourth lap to my one, she told me if I just needed to walk in the shallow end, that was still a workout. Or I could use a kickboard and flippers. 

What am I, 3 years old? I thought. (Spoiler alert: I used the kickboard and flippers. It was a great idea.) Ever the big sister, she continued to cheer me on. 

Searching for Inspiration

Eventually, over time, I grew stronger and more confident in the water. But then, as so often happens with life, Beth’s and my schedules began to diverge. We would still meet when we could, but if I was going to continue down this path, I was going to have to do so on my own a lot of times. 

I tried to find inspiration to go out in the cold of winter to go to the gym, jump in cold water for my swim, then go back out into the cold to go home. I had trouble finding a compelling argument. Suddenly, the days between swims increased. “I’ll go tomorrow,” I would rationalize. 

On many of those days that I skipped, I’d pick up my youngest daughter, Kacey, from swim practice—following in her aunt’s footsteps—and feel the pang of guilt. If she can do this multiple times a week, I should be able to. 

Lent to the Rescue

And then came Lent. Every year, I look for something either to do or to give up in order to help me grow into a better person. What can I do to help become the best version of myself, the version that Christ was willing to sacrifice himself for? After some reflection and discernment, I decided to swim—for my health and as a way to become the best version of myself. It became my Lenten practice. 

Often, as I went down the pool lane, I would pray. For each lap, I would either recite a well-known prayer or dedicate that lap to someone I wanted to hold close to my heart. Other times, I would try to clear my mind and focus on the water’s sound as I broke the surface. 

Mostly, though, my swimming became a thank-you to myself “because I am wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14) and worth this effort. So, I continue to swim. I’m not very strong or fast, and my form is questionable. Sometimes I still use the kickboard and flippers. But I’m putting in the work and my determination is strong. I’m worth it. 

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