At 24-hour fitness I had a one-hour personal trainer session with Bryan the trainer manager at my club. It is a way for him to get new clients. He spent a half hour with me, taught me better stances, use of breath, and walked me around the club. At the sales portion of his presentation, I could not invest in his services. But one thing he outlined was what muscle groups to focus on each day and after doing upper body and lower body days, to take an active rest day. He said on that day I could swim for an hour, do a long hike, or something else to my liking.
I already swim 30 minutes daily, alongside of the weightlifting, but the idea of swimming for an hour seemed daunting. I had never done it. Indeed, before last week I would have flat-out told you, I could not do it.
I came to my first active rest day last Saturday. I was excited to do an hour of swimming, but wondered if it was even possible for me to do it. In the past I have been winded with less swimming. Since returning to the gym, I have had no problem feeling winded. Something has shifted for me physically. As I got into the water and began to swim, it felt possible. Part of my swimming discipline is to rehearse the scriptures I am working on. So, I began to recite Psalm 107 as I swam. The opening line of that Psalm is
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. Those God has redeemed from the hand of the enemy and gathered from all the lands, east, west, north and south.”Psalm 107: 1-2
As I swam freestyle, length by length, I rehearsed these words giving thanks, celebrating God in the water. God’s mercy endures forever, the psalmist wrote. He did not say God’s judgment endures forever, nor anything else, but mercy another word for God’s steadfast love. What a different view this presented of how God.
I got the sense of feeling God’s pleasure while swimming, like Eric Liddell used to say of running, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” There in the water I felt this deep sense of joy stroke after stroke. “Swim with me, Jesus,” I said. He did.
Ten minutes passed, and I thought, “Well, I will at least swim 30 minutes, but I bet I can do 60.” I threw in a lap of the butterfly, my favorite stroke, and then went back to backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Another ten minutes, and I thought, “Already 20 minutes! I can do this. Two more 20s to go.” Joy pulsed through me. Stroke by stroke, verse by verse I continued. Once I reached 30 minutes, I only had 30 more minutes to go and it felt like a reachable goal. I swim 30 minutes daily. A thought came through my mind, “Well, if I needed to, I could stop at 40 minutes.” But then when I reached 40, I thought, “There’s no reason to stop, I only have 20 minutes to go.”
I swam stroke after stroke, reciting the Psalm, and listening for how God was applying it to my heart and life.
“He satisfied the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”Psalm 107:10
“Where do I see you doing this, Lord?” I asked as I meditated on these words. He took my mind back to the beginning of that paragraph speaking of those who had “lost their way,” “wandered into the desert upon a desolate way.” When people have lost their own ways, wandered from the path, God brings them back and satisfies and fills their thirsty and hungry souls. I thought of Emily, a single mom, anxious and scared for the well-being of her 3-year-old daughter. I prayed for her to experience God satisfying her thirst and filling her hunger. Then I saw how God consistently has been doing this in my own heart and life. I gave thanks some more and swam a length of the butterfly for the joy of it.
“God breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”Psalm 107:16
My arms cut through the water as I breathed steadily again in backstroke. I reflected upon God’s power and might to do what the psalmist described. Here, the psalmist speaks of spiritual gates and bars, those of spiritually enemy powers.
When rebellion leaves people in utter darkness, suffering in iron chains, their tendency is to believe in the strength of what holds them in bondage instead of in God’s power to deliver.
But this passage points to God’s might to set them free.
The language in the section of the psalm of those are trapped in darkness, utter darkness caught me. There is something about the adjective “utter” which made this darkness into a spiritual place not merely a physical one. How many people have found themselves in a spiritual darkness because of rebellion?
Have you been in such darkness?
We find when these cry out to the God who is outside of their darkest places, He sets them free. God is never limited by what has held us in darkness.
The next section which describes another group who have rebelled against God, ends with this call:
“Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His wonderful works with songs of Joy.”Psalm 107:22
I flipped turned and thought of the people who found themselves suffering afflictions and at the gates of death due to what the psalmist described as rebellious ways. I remembered my favorite line from this section. After this group calls out to God for rescue, we read,
“He sent forth his word and healed them.”Psalm 107:20
I loved that. What a picture that was! I had nearly swum 50 minutes and I only had 10 minutes to go. That felt like a cinch even after swimming for so long already.
The next section spoke of merchants on the sea who encountered a storm like the one described in the book of Jonah or Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 28. It described their deliverance as God stilled the winds and waves and brought them to their desired haven. So, the psalmist adjured them:
“Let them exalt God in the assembly of the people and praise Him in the council of the elders.”Psalm 107:32
The last section of the Psalm is filled with the actions and power of God on display in creation. This is the God who turns rivers into deserts and deserts into pools of water. As I swam I meditated upon how God continually is described as the one who rescues, delivers and defends people as they turned to Him. The psalm ends with these words,
“Let the one who is wise heed (listen to) these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.”Psalm 107: 43
What an ending after the psalm has verse after verse putting God’s loving deeds of deliverance on display. As I came to the end of the hour, I was refreshed not weary, thrilled to my core. I had done it! What I never thought possible, I had swum for an hour. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and thanksgiving.
Today was my second active rest day, and again, I swam an hour. Today I rejoiced in the Lord through a passage from Philippians 4.