What Do Following Jesus &
Training for an Ironman Have in Common?
Hello. My name is Monica, and I’m addicted to endurance sporting events. Early in my life it became apparent that I was not the fastest kid on the block, but I possessed the desire, drive, and discipline to go further. I completed my first marathon in my late twenties, and with that came my first endurance-sport-training-object-lesson on following Jesus. Since then, I literally expect spiritual lessons to be birthed throughout whatever physical challenge I undertake. My current endeavor? An Ironman – a triathlon comprised of a 2.4 mile swim immediately followed by a 112 mile bike and then 26.2 mile run – to be completed within 17 hours on 11/1/14 in Panama City Beach, Florida. Training for Ironman Florida (IMFL) has literally been a yearlong process, and I have been journaling all along the way. As the final countdown to IMFL nears, I will be reflecting on the journey, turning some of my journal entries into blogs to share with you. My prayer is that what Jesus has lovingly taught and shown me through the highs and lows of this journey might become life-giving Truth to you, too.
Part 2: Focus, the Black Line
First, let me say that I am not a swimmer. Sure, if you throw me in the water, I will not drown, and I can propel my body through the water to a designated point of exit. While my rudimentary swimming skills have proven adequate in shorter distance triathlons, the daunting span of 2.4 miles through Gulf waters just prior to a lengthy bike ride and full marathon…well, let’s just say that I am inspired to make sure I complete my first leg of IMFL as efficiently as possible. In other words, I don’t have to be the first racer out of the water, but I do want to be the least tired racer out of the water! In order to accomplish this, I have been working diligently on swimming technique. This week’s focus…the black line at the bottom of the pool.
In my opinion, swimming is the most boring of the three components of a triathlon. You cannot carry-on a conversation with the person next to you. You cannot look around and enjoy the scenery. In fact, when training in a pool, you will be most efficient when your eyes focus on your lane’s black line on the pool’s bottom. Focused on the black line at the bottom of the pool, I have noticed four things. This black-line-focus:
1. Guides the swimmer in a straight line, which, after all, is the shortest distance between two points.
2. Helps maintain the balanced body position at the surface of the water that enables the most proficient swimming.
3. Eliminates the distraction of other swimmers in other lanes, which potentially ignites a competitive spirit, causing a shift in focus from form and rhythm to keeping up with, or attempting to swim faster than, others in the pool!
4. A swimmer has no idea where the wall is until the small horizontal black line appears inches from the wall.
What if we follow, focus on, Jesus like a swimmer follows, focuses on, that black line at the bottom of the pool? Focused on Jesus, He will take us straight to where we need to go. Remember, the original Post Exodus Plan for Israel took them straight into the Promised Land a year after being freed from Egyptian slavery. However, when the Israelites shifted their focus from God to the giants in the land, they ended up wandering in the desert for forty years! (See Numbers 13-14.)
What if we follow, focus on, Jesus like a swimmer follows, focuses on, that black line at the bottom of the pool? Focused on Jesus, our life finds its proper balance, the balance that allows us to be most proficient at that which Jesus followers are called to do. Jesus explained it this way, “First, love God; then, love others.” (See Matthew 22:35-40.)
What if we follow, focus on, Jesus like a swimmer follows, focuses on, that black line at the bottom of the pool? Focused on Jesus, we won’t compare ourselves to, or compete with, others for affirmation, approval, or position. Jesus has given each of us beautiful things to do in His Kingdom. We just need to swim our swim faithfully. (See John 21:15-23.)
What if we follow, focus on, Jesus like a swimmer follows, focuses on, that black line at the bottom of the pool? True, focused on Jesus, we probably won’t be able to see what lies ahead of us. However, like the small horizontal black line indicating the approaching wall, Jesus will tell us when we need to turn. After all, that is how Jesus moved throughout His earthly ministry, focused on the Father, turning and doing only at the instruction of the Father in the power of the Spirit. (See John 12:49.)
Let’s be honest. Life can be hard, and we have a long way to go. So let’s focus on the One who invites those who are thrashing about in the waters, driven and tossed by the waves, fighting for a place in the masses to come and find rest. (See Matthew 11:28-30.)
We might not be the first one out of the water, but we’ll be the least tired!