Quiet time. Alone time. Something we all need. “Ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Ps 4:4) – in their beds, the people of God would have time to think about their lives, meditate on Scripture, and pray to their God.
“One handful of peaceful repose
Is better than two fistfuls of worried work—
More spitting into the wind” (Eccl 4:6, MSG).
Is it any wonder that we find the Hebrews with their Sabbath, David with his pasture, and Jesus with His mountain? Each in his own way was able to have time to himself to think, to meditate, and to pray. I’m not bound by the Sabbath (Col 2:16-17), I’m not interested in keeping sheep, and I seriously doubt that I’d be able to climb a mountain. For me, I find my personal time in the pool at Carilion Wellness Botetourt.
I saw a specialist in movement disorders at West Virginia University. To say that she was unhelpful would be like saying that the Pope is Catholic – a gross understatement. Yet, one thing this so-called “expert” got right is that swimming would help me. Tammy started going with me to the YMCA and helping me get in and out of the pool (this was long before I would consent to using a lift chair), and I found swimming to be a great relief. Here are some reasons I enjoy swimming:
No cell phone
I’ve seen a few folks bring their smartphones and place them at the end of the lane; not only do I think those users aren’t very “smart,” I don’t want to be reached for the 90 minutes or so that I’m in the pool. When I was preaching full-time, it was heaven because I didn’t need to check the phone every time it vibrated: no marital crisis, no ER visit, no hangnail for which I needed to pray – I was alone. My iPhone 6 stays in the locker, and I have no need to be tied to it.
I’m an introvert. I’ve had some people look at me like I just landed from Mars when I told them that – I’m warm, loving, kind, and enjoy being around people. Yep. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t like people nor does it mean I don’t enjoy being around people – Being an introvert means that being with people drains my energy. As my sweet wife will attest, coming home at the end of a day of ministry meant I was absolutely exhausted and I needed time alone.
The pool is that alone time. It’s hard to carry on a conversation with you’re doing the backstroke and your head is submerged. I don’t even hear people, except for that gargled sound under water. I don’t see people – I’m watching the ceiling to make sure that I know where I am and don’t bump my head on the concrete walls (that hurts, take my word for it).
There is no better drug in all the world (trust me, if it’s legal, one of my many doctors has prescribed it). The euphoria of the endorphins makes it hard for me to get out of the water some days. When I do get out and head to the steam room, I feel as though everything is right in the world. It’s a marvelous feeling.
The endorphins not only lead to feelings of euphoria, but they also reduce pain. When I am in the water, I have no pain; it is one of the few times I am not in pain. People sometimes wonder why I swim a mile a day or why I am so motivated to go and swim every single day – honestly, I’m not that motivated; I just know that when I get in the water and start to move that I’m going to be pain free for a while. If you had chronic pain, you’d put on your bathing suit and jump in, too!
I’ve lost about 80 pounds thus far. Yes, I have more to lose, but I’m not going to complain about 80 pounds. The only thing I don’t like is that if I don’t watch what I eat very, very carefully, I gain weight. That’s just not fair! I swim a mile a day and I still cannot eat whatever I want but life could be far worse.
I’ve made some new friends in the pool. I like making new friends (yes, the introvert really does like making new friends). At the gym I’ve made many new friends, and, one friend worries himself sick if I’m not there at the same time every day – if my schedule is going to change, I make sure John knows in advance.
When I had a physical a couple years ago, my physician started me on a beta blocker for tachycardia and hypertension. Because I have variant angina, I still take a nitrate and a beta blocker and a calcium channel blocker (I tried easing off those meds on my own, and I won’t try that again!). But, with the medications and the weight loss and the swimming, my blood pressure at my last doctor’s appointment was 92/51 and my pulse was 73 – excellent numbers!
There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment when I’m headed to the locker room and I’ve just swum a mile. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment when I’m able to put another mark on the 50-Mile Club marker at the gym (I’m getting close to swimming 350 miles altogether – that’s just in the Carilion pool and doesn’t count pools when I’ve been out of town). Swimming has shown me that I can do something, and I am more determined than ever to do it right.
When I’m in the pool, I don’t need to be careful that I don’t fall – I’m not gonna. In the pool, I don’t have to watch every move carefully (unless I’m sharing a lane with someone and don’t want to hit her in the head). In the pool, I don’t wonder what a broken bone or stitches would feel like. For a little while I get to feel “normal.”
Find something you enjoy. Get off by yourself for a while. Get the heart pumping. No matter your disability, you can find an appropriate exercise (I highly recommend swimming). Get busy and let God walk with you as He has walked with me.