Keep Swimming

Daily Reformation, Ezekiel 47:1-5

About the Reformer

I was speaking a minute ago about Mongolian rivers. Australian rivers are more like some men’s lives. A chain of ponds in the dry season—nay! not even a chain, but a series, with no connecting channel of water between them. That is like a great many Christian people; they have isolated times when they feel the voice of Christ’s love, and yield themselves to the powers of the world to come, and then there are long intervals, when they feel neither the one nor the other. But the picture that ought to be realized by each of us is God’s ideal, which there is power in the gospel to make real in the case of every one of us, the rapid and continuous increase in the depth and in the scour of ‘the river of the water of life,’ that flows through our lives. Luther used to say, ‘If you want to clean out a dunghill, turn the Elbe into it.’ If you desire to have your hearts cleansed of all their foulness, turn the river into it. But it needs to be a progressively deepening river, or there will be no scour in the feeble trickle, and we shall not be a bit the holier or the purer for our potential and imperfect Christianity.

—Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture

Pulling It Together

All summer, every morning, they had been swimming, training to take the test for the Senior Lifesaving certificate. The day had come and that was when “Animal” showed up for the first time. They had heard stories from the instructor about this maniac. He was a shark—better suited to water than dry land—and he showed up just so the students could “rescue” him from the deep end of the pool. They were convinced, to the last person, they would surely drown that morning.

The students had to swim from the three-feet end of the Olympic size pool to the five-feet end and back so many times that they could not keep track. The instructor informed the students when to then swim to the 12-feet diving area. If at any time a student’s foot touched bottom, he was disqualified. Once in the deep end, the students had to dog-paddle with their arms above their heads for five minutes and then do a circling search for another few minutes. Up to this exhausting point, the test had been comparatively easy. Next the pitiful students had to swim to the bottom where Animal was sitting. Waiting. Smiling.

Each student had to bring the thrashing lunatic to the top where he then fought the student for air, pushing the “lifesaver” under the water and climbing on top of him as though he were an island. Eventually, about half of the students managed to get the Animal under tow and swim him back to “shore.”

Each student that day, did not fear swimming back-and-forth in the shallow ends. Some of them did not even fear the time in the deep end with Animal. The fear was the continuous swim, never stopping, overcoming the anxiety and moving on to the next level of difficulty. If Animal had not shown a little grace that day, after a mere head-dunking or two, most of the students would have needed rescued by him instead. The certificate went to each one who continued swimming, trusting someone more powerful than himself, eyes always on the prize, no matter how tired or discouraged he became.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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