It was December 2020.  I was doing an open water beach-to-beach swim race in Chacala, Mexico with a group of fellow female triathletes.  The water was calm, but the sun was so bright that its reflections dancing off the water made it nearly impossible to sight my path ahead.  With your head down in the water, sighting in open-water swims for triathletes is essential.  When you are swimming over a mile without stopping, you need to mark your path forward so that you don’t drift, but also to conserve energy in the race.

I was losing the battle as I kept hooking out to the right.  To play devil’s advocate, there were limited buoys in the race, and so it was difficult to even find a ‘flagpole’ ahead to move towards.  A young boy on a paddleboard kept waving me back, yelling, ‘You’re drifting!’

A few weeks later, back in Austin, TX, I found out that it was a simple micro-movement that was causing me to hook right – my left shoulder was pulling too far across my body/head, and as a result, I was unknowingly making micro-shifts in the ‘core line’ of my body’s vertical direction. 

You’re drifting.  It’s not an appealing thought – that we can drift in our lives – professionally, spiritually, relationally, emotionally.  We like to think we are advancing, charting new territory, moving forward, and discovering new opportunities in the deep waters of life.  But, the irony is that we simply cannot advance if we are drifting – even in the slightest micro-movements. 

Drifting occurs in three ways.

  • We drift because we’re distracted
  • We drift when we doubt
  • We drift when we’re driven by our own discernment

Distractions  

Stay in your lane, friend. What is distracting you right now?  Social media, comparing your life to others, tuning out of the pain you don’t want to feel/process?  Another person’s success?  When we are distracted and look outside the boundary lines of God’s present inheritance for us (Psalm 16), we lose focus.  When we lose focus, we start to think we aren’t in the right lane.  But, you are!  God has you RIGHT where He wants you.  Don’t be distracted by what you don’t have, or by a season you’re not yet in.  All of our micro-movement distractions add up – and as they add up – we drift out to sea, away from the buoy, away from the chartered territory that keeps us safe.  A single distraction doesn’t steer you off course – it’s the culmination of distraction over time that pulls you away from what God needs you to focus on today.

Where can you recognize and remove distractions from your life?  The light dancing on the water is like the shiny object that we are distracted to chase – maintain the North Star. 

Doubts

When Peter walked on the water to Jesus, he drifted down into the water because he took his eyes OFF Jesus.  That’s why it is important to keep “sighting” – keep lifting your eyes up and out of the water, repeatedly, routinely, so that you never lose your gaze on the One who protects you from your doubts.  Even in the deep waters, He is there if we are willing to look UP.  When I am swimming in open water during a practice or race, it can be paralyzing.  I am a little fish in a big ocean, and when it is just you, your body, and each stroke, it can be scary.  Usually, though, it is only scary when I stop sighting.  Even the disciples said, Jesus, we don’t know where you are going – how can we know the way?  Jesus said, Child, I am the way.  The key to staying in our lane is to keep Christ in our lane. 

The key to not being drowned by doubts is remembering that our Savior is right there walking on the water with us – His way is through the deep waters, though His footprints are unseen (Psalm 77:19)

Driven by our own Discernment

Lastly, we drift when we are driven by our own discernment – meaning, we are wise in our own eyes, only trusting ourselves, and are defensive.  No triathlete in their right mind would ignore buoys!  We follow them because the chartered course is the best, the most direct, and the safest.  We trust the course. We trust the rules.  We trust that the organizers of the triathlon have marked out the distance we are supposed to swim – 1.2 miles, or roughly 2000 yards.  In a way, we think perhaps our own path is best at times.  I don’t like to be bound by swim lanes.  I don’t always like to trust that what my coach has given me to do in any given training week is the right thing for my body – but it is.  This is where we are called at times to walk in the abundance of counselors – to gain wisdom means being willing to stop leaning on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  I like to think I am a discerning person, that I have the know-how, that I’m pretty experienced.  But, more often than not, when I am driven by my own ego and pride, I fall.  Where can you invite the abundance of community, counsel, and care into your life and career? 

Swim the race marked out for you, friend.  At the end of the book of John, Peter says to Jesus, “What about that man, Lord?”  Jesus smiles and says to him, “Peter, what is that to you?  You follow ME!”  The intentionality of Jesus’s path for us is beautiful, isn’t it?  When He calls us to follow Him, He is lovingly protecting us from drifting.  The grass may seem greener, but is it? Really?  What if you have a beautiful inheritance in the exact lane you are in, right now?

A Prayer for Help

Father, thank you that you are in my lane.  You are for me and committed to going the distance through chartered and unchartered waters to see me safely come to shore.  You always bring us to our desired haven.  Give me the discipline to stay the course, to stay in my lane.  Help me to not be distracted, doubtful, or driven by my own self. Give me the focus and heart to take each stroke with precision and excellence, that I may avoid wasted energy, tides I don’t need to drift into, comparison, and heartache along the way.  You always choose the best path for me. You don’t let your children drown!  May I swim my course marked out for me today, knowing that with you as my guidepost, You will meet me in the waters – shallow or deep – and strengthen me with each stroke I take.  

Emily Jansen
Emily Jansen

Emily is the author of @AWilderEden coming out in 2022, a marketing and philanthropic strategist, volunteer, triathlete, pianist, and poet. From D.C. to Kenya to Korea to California to Texas, Emily has scaled her dreams, personally and professionally, for more than 15 years. Across non-profit, public, and private sectors, Emily has stewarded her marketing, communications, and philanthropic skills to serve diverse organizations, locally and abroad. Today, Emily lives in Austin, TX and manages purpose brand marketing at Deloitte. She completed her M.S. in Marketing at Johns Hopkins in 2018.

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