I was a freshman on my college swim team, and my coach had determined that I was a distance swimmer. My high-school swimming background hadn't been very intense—the longest distance race was only 500 yards. So when I found out I would eventually be swimming the mile, a 1,650-yard freestyle event, I was stunned. In fact, I dreaded the strain of swimming the mile. I just couldn't understand how anyone could race for that long. The DePauw Invitational in Indiana was the first time I swam the mile competitively for my college team. I was nervous and scared, and none of Coach's reassurances made me feel any better.
The mile race was held at the break between sessions. That meant that while I was swimming, the rest of the team would be getting ready to go to lunch. Since I was the only woman from my team swimming the mile that day, I started to feel very alone.
Although I had tried to pray about the situation, my prayers were halfhearted. Instead of turning completely to God for His help, I was still trying to find a human solution to this problem. I thought if I could just concentrate on holding a pace or working the flip turns, maybe I'd forget that I was scared.
Then the captain of our women's team sat down next to me. She was getting a little worried about one of her races and also seemed to be searching for a sense of peace. When I saw her, I realized that my prayers needed to be more than halfhearted—for both of our benefits.
So I opened my copy of the Christian Science Weekly Bible Lessons. And the very first Bible passage immediately helped me: "For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward" (Isa. 52:12).
As I read that, I felt a deep peace replace the fear I'd been feeling. Anywhere that I was required to go, God was preparing the way before me and He would be there with me. I shared that thought with my captain before walking over to the starting blocks. I held to that thought as I stood on the blocks and then as I dived into the pool.
Through the first few lengths of the race, I noticed that a girl in the lane next to me was swimming at about my same pace. I decided that I would try to stay with her. Anytime I felt the urge to give up and slow down, I would see her and that would push me to continue on. Anytime she would fall behind, she would see me, and she would catch up. We swam the entire 66 pool lengths just like that—stroke for stroke with each other. To me it was a sign of God's tangible presence all throughout the race. I was grateful for it. I didn't even once look at the clock to see my time.
An hour or so later, after I had cooled down and rejoined my team, the swimmer from the lane next to me came over to the area where my team was sitting. She wanted to know who had swum the mile with her. When one of my teammates pointed to me, she came over to me. I'll never forget what she said: "I'm a senior, and I haven't swum the mile since my freshman year. I was terrified to do it, and the only thing that kept me going was seeing you at every flip turn. Thank you for swimming that race with me."
I told her my story and assured her that I was equally grateful that she'd been right there with me. This reminded me of Mary Baker Eddy's statement: "In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes,—Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply" (Science and Health, p. 206).
In the four years that I swam distance events in college, I never again swam stroke for stroke with another swimmer for an entire race. I don't remember how fast we swam the mile that day. I don't remember which one of us touched the wall first. I don't remember how we placed. But I do remember the feeling of companionship I experienced swimming that mile, and I know it could have only come from God. My victory that day was just as the Bible verse described—I felt loved and protected by God.
I realized that my prayers needed to be more than halfhearted. Anywhere that I was required to go, God was preparing the way before me.
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Jennifer Moeller is now the Head Swim Coach and Assistant Sports Information Director at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.
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