Dog Paddle

Renae Brumbaugh Green • Coffee Talk


 love to swim.

I am a terrible swimmer.

These truths have followed me throughout my life, and have made it quite difficult to pursue my dream of joining the Olympic swim team. 

It all started when I could barely walk. My family went on a vacation to a small ranch in Wimberley, Texas when I was about two. Mom likes to tell the story of how they couldn’t keep me out of the pool. I jumped into the deep end; Dad jumped in after me. He set me on the side of the pool and scolded me. Mom took me with her to the shallow end. I climbed out at first opportunity, ran around to the deep end, and repeated the scene. 

I wore blow-up arm floaties and a life jacket; I felt invincible. 

Not long after that trip, they enrolled me in a swim class at the local YMCA, which was nearly a half hour from our house. When Mom and Dad were convinced I probably wouldn’t drown, they stopped the lessons. We didn’t have a pool near us. Swimming was never a big part of my life. Which explains my longing to be near water, and my lack of swimming expertise. 

I’ve spent most of my adult life in search of a form of exercise that does not involve sweat. My search has come to an end; I’ve joined the local community pool. 

It’s an indoor pool. 

It’s heated. 

It has lifeguards who will save me from drowning. 

I go early in the morning, when the serious swimmers show up to get their exercise. They do laps with those fancy flips at each end. They look like graceful, elegant porpoises. 

I look more like a flailing walrus. I have decided not to care about that. 

Every morning that I’m able, I show up. I get in the pool, and I swim. First I do a couple of laps, stopping at each end to catch my breath. Then I water-jog the length of the pool. Then I stand at the edge and do ballerina-bar stretches. Then I do several dog-paddle laps, which I hate. But they’re good for me, so I do them. 

In case you didn’t know, the dog paddle is deceptively difficult. On top of the water, all you can see is my head, which doesn’t move a lot. But beneath the surface, my arms and legs paddle frantically to keep me afloat.  By the time I’ve done a couple of doggie laps I’m out of breath, my heart is pounding, and I’m wishing for some of those blow-up arm floaties. 

I feel like I go through life in a dog paddle. On the surface, I try really hard to look calm and composed. Beneath the water, I’m usually paddling for my life. It leaves me exhausted. 

But I also know God’s at work in much the same way. On the surface, it may not seem like much is happening. But I know that just beyond my sight line, beneath the water, God is busy, acting on my behalf, bringing all things together for my good. 

At the end of my workout, I feel strong and refreshed. If I keep it up, I know I’ll eventually get smaller and leaner and sturdier. These are the rewards of consistency. 

At the end of my life, how much greater the rewards of a steadfast faith. I just need to keep paddling. 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” 2 Timothy 4:7.

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