Recently, while swimming laps, I began to formulate life lessons from my morning workout. The practical tools I’ve learned from proper pool etiquette often mirror everyday situations in life.
Lesson #1 – Be Aware of your Boundaries
It’s important to understand where my space starts and ends both in the swimming pool and in life. If while sharing the lane, I hog the lane and go over my side of the large black line in the middle, I risk hurting myself or the other swimmer. In relationships, if I am unaware of my personal boundaries, I encroach on other people’s space, hurt people’s feelings, and can even hinder growth in others. I have worked hard in this area by reading some helpful books, and asking God to make me aware of “my spaces” and the swath in between that is somewhat shared.
This has been especially important as my children get older and have homes and families of their own. I’m definitely still learning in this area, especially since I am nurturing by nature, but being more aware is helping me. A few years ago my husband gave me a tangible reminder in this area of boundaries with older children: “If they are not on our tax return anymore, step back, and let them handle their own situations.” This is easier said than done. Our real lives are not as clearly marked out for us like the black line in the middle of the swim lane, but working to find boundaries in relationships creates a safe place for everyone to thrive.
Lesson #2 – Overlook an Accidental “Bonk” on the Head
Recently, the local swim team took over the lap lanes, which forced me to share my lane with a faster swimmer. She consistently whizzed past me and cracked me in the head with one of her strokes. She then proceeded to move abruptly to the next swim lane, which left me wondering if she was mad, even though SHE BONKED ME. (“Bonk” is a Bramblett toddler word that stuck with us).
One thing the Lord continues to show me is to not be easily offended. “And let none of you devise or imagine or think evil against his brother in your heart” (Zechariah 7:10b, AMP). We often imagine bad motives of other people, when in fact, most of the time, others are reacting in ways that have nothing to do with us. Overlooking offenses is a good habit to form to find more freedom in relationships.
Lesson #3 – Focus on Your Own Workout
Before the Bonker left my swim lane she was lapping me every single length of the pool. When this happens to you in the pool, it’s honestly very distracting and hard to focus on your own workout. When this happens outside the pool and we habitually measure our success by someone else’s, we lose our focus and become discouraged. We get exhausted trying to perform for others or we quit trying altogether. We live with more peace and focus when we confidently follow our own plan and stop comparing our progress to someone else’s.
God has given us all gifts and callings that He wants to develop in us in unique ways. However, it’s hard to hear His voice about me if I’m focusing too much on someone else’s journey. Because of the many hats I wear right now, I have to constantly remind myself that God is leading me every day to walk in my own identity, as His daughter first, and focus on all He wants to give me and reveal to me in the context of that relationship. Then I focus on the race He has prepared for me in different parts of my life.
Lesson #4 – Press On Through Distraction
Anyone who is a lap swimmer knows the sinking feeling you get as you enter the pool deck and see all the swim lanes crowded. I’m usually a “good sharer,” but there’s no doubt, it’s just harder to focus on my own workout when I have to worry about swimming on my side of the lane and getting lapped constantly. It’s great preparation for a triathlon where you get bumped a lot but not very fun in an everyday workout.
In this recent situation I just mentioned, there was more to the story. At first, I was sharing the lane with a young woman. Then she left and the Bonker joined me for about ten laps. After she left in a huff, a man just jumped in and didn’t follow the usual pleasantries swimmers use to notify the persons already in the lane that you’d like to join them.
By this time, I was distracted from my purpose and was ready to just quit and get in the hot tub. I was mentally exhausted and thrown off. Other than praying and coaching myself, I am often challenged by thinking about one of my sons and his tireless workouts to qualify for The Crossfit Games. His purpose is clear and always right in front of him. He works out multiple times a day whether he feels like it or not.
When I’m praying, I ask God regularly to “strengthen my will” for whatever it is I feel led to do. I do this when I’m swimming, and I do it outside the pool. When we know which direction to take, it’s often just engaging our strength of will to stick to our purposes and goals.
Lesson #5 – What if You’re the Bonker?
Lap swimmers are by and large polite to each other: Waiting for our turn, staying in our space and getting out quickly when we finish our laps to allow for waiting swimmers. Most people try to get their workout done without being rude. But what if you’re the one who “bonked” someone or hurt someone without meaning to?
As much as we try to avoid hurting others, sometimes we do. The enemy of our souls likes to help us beat ourselves up when we make mistakes, whispering condemning lies, and reminding us of our mistakes all day long.
When we make mistakes, it’s important to view them correctly. Just like in the pool: acknowledge our mistake, say we’re sorry, try not to make the same mistake again, forgive ourselves and move on. Obviously, if our offenses are long standing, the recipe is a little different.
Many people have a hard time letting themselves off the hook for a “bonk,” or an unintentional mistake. This is where we have to go to Jesus for truth. We are all sinners, in need of a Savior, saved only by grace. We can’t be perfect enough to save ourselves and must learn to extend grace to ourselves. When we accept that we are imperfect and choose to live in His grace, we are able to move forward into the next thing God wants to talk to us about.
Next time, we’ll talk more about Lessons in the Lap Lanes.
Blessings & Beware of Bonkers!