Today marks eight years since my first dive into the pool at Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center for the UIL State Swim Meet and six years since my last. This story is about the bumpy journey to that initial plunge.
Disbelief. Anger. Tears.
The emotions and side effects of a medal lost and accomplishment gone unnoticed at the twitch of my right shoulder.
It was the regional swim meet and I’d swam a personal best in the 200 free when a man in white slowly approached my lane … threatening to crush a goal I’d trained my tail off to achieve.
And he did.
Sorry ma’am your shoulders flinched before the whistle and we have to disqualify you.
Those words sparked a firestorm of emotions that were the farthest thing from godly.
I threw stuff. I yelled. I cried … because that’s what teenagers do when they’re self-absorbed and frustrated. I’m not proud of how I conducted myself, but it happened and I’ve learned a lot about God’s abounding grace through this bout of rage.
Thankfully I have a pretty great Mom. Seriously, she’s the bomb and loves me in my ugliest, most unlovable moments. She reminds me a lot of Jesus.
Momma Bard–as many of my friends affectionately call her–rushed down from spectator seating, wrapped her arms around me and took me on a “walk about” … something we’d do when I was upset about an athletic performance or my lack of recruiting prospects.
I still remember looking down at the red paw prints painted along the sidewalk as we prayed together and casted our cares to the One in control of life’s outcomes.
Overwhelmed with confidence and faith that things would work out exactly as they should, I returned to the pool deck. A few hours later, a medal hung around my neck along with a ticket to the state meet.
My 15-year-old self thought that punched ticket was the victory of the day, but looking back I’d have to say the victory came from the lesson learned through the interaction with the dream crusher dressed in white.
Let me explain…
My greatest fear is that many will spend their lives filling the pews of churches only to find out they’re disqualified because of a false start.
Just like I didn’t receive the prize at the conclusion of my race, I fear many will miss the reward of eternity in the presence of their Maker because they failed to get a clean start from the block.
In America (especially in the great state of Texas), many of us are born and bred in the church pew … but many people fail to experience a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. We attend church out of obligation and tradition, but there’s no heart for the One behind the worship.
That’s the catalyst of my own story.
For 12 years I attended Sunday school and sat in the back pew of a small town church, but I was completely blinded to God’s displayed love on the cross … in fact, I often prayed in hopes that my parents would sleep through their alarms.
Church was boring and I didn’t want to go.
By God’s grace alone, the blinders fell off at an FCA camp. That’s the first time I realized the truth behind the song I’d grown up singing…Jesus loves me. My life was forever changed.
So today I’m writing to the one who has never skipped a Sunday service.
The one who claims to know Jesus because that’s the cultural norm.
The one who owns a Bible, but rarely cracks it open.
The one who quotes Scripture, but doubts its promises (and just so you know, I have those days too).
The one who does what’s morally right, yet experiences no freedom.
There’s an abundant life to be lived in pursuit of Christ, and it doesn’t start in a church pew … it starts with belief in His love.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
Pause for a moment.
You’ve probably heard these words countless times, but do you truly believe them? Do you believe the Creator of all things sent His only Son on a mission to die for your failed attempts at achieving His holiness?
Because He does, and my heart sure hopes you’re overwhelmed by the depth and height of God’s love.
So how’s your start? God is pursuing your heart and your life clock is still ticking … maybe this is your moment to confess and believe.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. -Romans 10:9
P.S. I’m super proud to be an El Campo Swimming alum today … the FIRST-EVER state-qualifying relay team is making history by competing in the finals this afternoon. Go ‘Birds!