It's All Fun Until the Event Begins--Finding Courage

by Sally Matheny

     Have you ever labored for months striving to meet a goal? It takes a lot of work learning and implementing new things. However, for the most part, the training is enjoyable. You meet smaller goals and receive rewards--either verbally or materially. Finally, the big event you’ve been training for arrives, and everything changes.


   Our youngest child, “Z-man,” enjoys swimming. Thinking this would be great exercise, we signed him up for the city’s swim team.
     In the fall, he began practicing with the team at an indoor pool. A wonderful coach taught him all the strokes and how to dive.
     Although Z-man loved swimming, he would get nervous before every practice. We were unable to find the root of his apprehension, but once he hit the water, he was fine. Pre-practice jitters, I guess.


     Finally, summer rolled around and so did Z-man’s first swim meet. Wow! You could spot this newbie’s family a mile away. Cheering the loudest, taking multiple photos, and scrambling to the finish line to unload an embarrassing amount of accolades.

     Z-man didn’t mind his cheering fans. He liked it. However, prior to every meet the worst case of nerves set in.

At the opening swim meet, he was enveloped in uneasiness. 

“Will they tell me when to go?”

“What if I forget what stroke to do?”
“Why are my events written in permanent marker on my arm?”

     Questions, questions, questions. We had the answers to all of these but they were followed by:

“My stomach hurts.”

“I’m not sure I want to do this.”
“Do we have to do this?”

"I don't want to do this." 

     After all the pre-swim encouragement, I hardly had a voice to cheer once the meet began. But once again, the fears dissolved in the water. Game on.

     Several award ribbons pumped Z-man.  He chattered non-stop all the way home. Swim team was going to be fun!


     The next meet was his first away meet. The one-hour drive up the mountain provided too much time for those nerves to start jiggling inside. Once we got to the pool, all his concerns jumped out before he could jump in.

“The diving block is too high.”

“The water is way too shallow to dive in here.”

“Do I have to do this?”

“I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this.”

     Two, four, six, eight, that’s how many cheerleaders it did take—to get Z-man into the water! Teachable moments--about commitment, dependability, and being part of the team effort all ensued.
     Finally, after the promise of a LEGO Hero Factory action figure at the end of the swim season, Z-man’s tension liquidated as he jumped into the pool.

     By the time the third swim meet rolled around, we’re thinking he has this down pat. He knows what to expect at a home meet and at an away meet. He’s a good swimmer and a good sport. He'll be more relaxed--or so we thought!

     We had heard this pool was twice as long as all the other pools. Being the newcomers, we thought they would use a flag line at the halfway point as a finish line for the younger ones. We were wrong.

“I have to swim twice as much? This whole thing?”

“The water is too shallow to dive into.”

“It looks like it’s going to rain. I’m not getting in if it storms.”

     Before he could say another word, a reminder was given of his commitment and how the team depended on him (and the LEGO action figure).

“Just do your best, son.”

“Get in there and give it all you got.”

“You’ll never be asked to do more than you can do. You can do this.”

     Z-man’s cheerleaders did not have to exhaust themselves this time. Before he could even ponder on our words, his coach came and asked if he could fill in for a missing relay team member (in addition to his other events). We held our breath and looked at Z-Man who quickly gave a nod with one condition—no backstroke. The deal was set and off he went.

     It was a grueling, long swim meet. Z-man swam with all his might. The relay was too close to his first event. He was zapped of all speed but he finished the race. This time, he didn’t win ribbons in any of his events, but we could not have been more proud.

     It’s funny. Anxiety presents itself the entire day before a swim meet, but once he gets in the water, they never resurface. After his first event, he’s all excited--eager to swim and reach his goal, which at this point is the finish line.

     First place is awesome and he loves the ribbons. But Z-man hasn’t (yet) complained or pouted when he hasn’t won ribbons.
     For now, I think he is soaking in the greater rewards of facing fears, giving it your very best, and finishing the race. Okay, and maybe he’s looking forward to that LEGO man, too.

     But there’s something incredibly rewarding in knowing you completed what you were asked to do. That someone believed you could do it and even though you weren’t so sure yourself, you jumped in and did it to the best of your ability. And no matter what the world thinks, whenever you arrive at the finish line, there is always someone there to say you did a great job.


     What about you? Do you get nervous when God asks you to do something new? Does it seem too lofty, too shallow, or too difficult?
     Remember God is the ultimate, sought-after Coach.  He will tell you:

“Just do your best.”

“Get in there and give it all you got.”

“You’ll never be asked to do more than you (and I, together) can do. You can do this.”

     He plans to help you and give you what you need to accomplish His purpose. He will not forget you! He has your name permanently written on the palm of his hand.

     Instead of thinking of a zillion ways to say, “I don’t want to do this,” the best thing is bravely divinge in!
     The race may be longer than you expected. Focus and do what your Coach tells you to do. Look straight ahead and do not worry about what those beside you, or ahead of you, are doing. Block out what the world is shouting on the sidelines; listen intently for your Coach’s voice.
     He’s waiting at the finish line ready to say, “Well done! Well done!”