One Melbourne lockdown on a Sunday morning, I was swimming in the Bay and it was a little bit choppy. I was slightly hesitant but after chatting with a couple of the other swimmers, one who said it was fun, the others who said they were going from the beach – I decided to get in at the steps, which is over the rocks at Williamstown beach. I swam out and across my normal routine to the first pole but on my return, the choppiness and the undercurrent became quite problematic. I found myself really struggling and gasping for breath and swallowing water. I think I was close to the steps but they seemed so far away and I just wasn’t making any headway towards them at all.
The thing with cold water swimming, is what I call brain freeze, you can’t logically think very well once your core gets really cold. I knew I was in trouble but I didn’t know what to do about it. The Bible says we have a Saviour who is our help in trouble and who rescues us from our trials. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking God – I don’t know what I was thinking except that I couldn't get back to those steps. I was being thrown about and the beach was fairly empty. One woman on the path looked at me (you can't really miss me in that get-up) but kept walking.
All of a sudden there was some clarity in my head and I heard three sentences.
‘You’re nearly there.’
‘Let the swell take you, stop fighting.’
All very strange sentences which I would not have told myself – however it was an encouragement and I listened because I had no other plan due of brain freeze. So I immediately relaxed, stopped battling and swam sidestroke. I was actually swimming in the opposite direction to the steps but within minutes I was at the steps. It took me three goes to grab the railing but when I did, I sat on those steps gasping, so very grateful that I was there.
I learnt valuable lessons that day, I’m not as strong a swimmer as I think I am and the sea can be treacherous even when it looks swimmable. I think that I was in shock for some time that day as I reflected on the experience later in the evening. In fact I journaled the experience using my own In-quiz-itive book technique of finding God’s meaning in our trials. It’s then I realised that the words perhaps did not come from my voice but maybe was in fact the voice of God. I believe that the Holy Spirit led me out of that predicament as I would never have thought to swim sidestroke in the opposite direction, as I just don’t use that stroke—ever!
You know what? It was obviously not my time to go. Be encouraged by my experience that God has you in the palm of His hand and goes before you and follows you even in the depths of the sea, He was there with me just as He is with you – see Psalm 139.