IVP - Strangely Dim - Go Ahead--Pass Me

January 16, 2007

Go Ahead--Pass Me

In the last few months I've started swimming for exercise. I'm not really a swimmer; I just do it once a week to cross-train. However, at 6:00 a.m. at the YMCA, there are many Serious Swimmers. They bring bags of props. They wear caps and goggles. They time themselves. They do the same stroke for an hour. I, on the other hand, am too weak to do the same stroke two laps in a row, so I alternate between four: freestyle, side stroke, back stroke and, um, "kick board stroke." And I never time myself.

The pool is divided into four lanes, in theory to separate the fast from the slow. The "slow lane" is on the far right and the "fast lane" is on the far left. Helpful signs also tell whether you're supposed to swim clockwise or counterclockwise in each lane. At first I assumed (with relief) that the "slow lane" is for people like me. But "slow," I've discovered, can mean anything from swimming laps to treading water to draping oneself over brightly colored noodles. It's difficult to navigate around people with noodles, even if you swim laps as slowly as I do.

So I tried out the second slowest lane. One day I thought I might manage to stay out of the way of the only other person in that lane (a middle-aged man), but he didn't notice me until he ran into me. And of course, he was fast. I moved over to let him go by, but he took that to mean I was bucking the system by swimming clockwise in a counterclockwise lane. When we reached the wall he informed me of my directional error. Well. I wanted to say that I may not be fast but I can read (and get paid to do it for my job, thank you very much)--but I said okay and tried to swim a little faster in a perfectly counterclockwise kind of way.

Last Wednesday the second fastest lane was open, so I jumped in and was soon joined by a pregnant woman. I thought I might have a fighting chance of keeping up, since she was swimming for two. I was wrong. She swam freestyle, lap after lap, while I had to be particularly careful on the side stroke, because I did not want to kick a pregnant woman.

As more people arrived I moved to the second slowest lane so the faster swimmers could have their speed to themselves. There was just one man in the lane then; once I joined him, though, I realized he was wearing: flippers. Twice the kicking power. We fell into a rhythm that worked, however; he passed me every five laps or so.

When he finished, two even faster men joined my lane. Unfortunately for them (and me) it's much more difficult to pass a slow swimmer when there are three people in the lane. I started to panic. I tried to swim faster. I paused at the end of the lane to let them go by me. I might have prayed.

My self-consciousness about my slowness didn't really surprise me. It just reminded me how much I hate to get in the way, to draw attention to myself by hindering others. I don't think others should have to deal with my weaknesses, especially two guys I never met who just want to have a nice (fast) morning swim.

But as I was about to cut the workout short and escape to the locker room, I was struck with a thought: it's all right to get passed. I don't have to keep up; it's okay and even good to have to cooperate with others to make things work. I don't have to buy flippers or leave early when faster swimmers come. In fact, staying and swimming at my own pace can serve as a reminder to me on a broader scale that I'm not called to fit in by keeping up, or to follow a pace set by a culture addicted to speed.

So--I think I'll go for a swim this week too. You can look for me in the pool. I'll be the one doing the side stroke, getting passed.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at January 16, 2007 9:19 AM Bookmark and Share


hopefully that those people that are addicted to the fast pace in life will see your peaceful pace and slow down and start to enjoy life instead of just flying through it.

Comment by: Dan at January 16, 2007 8:18 PM

Hey Lisa, ha, you had me cracking up! Loved it! Hey, I'd be right there with ya, just trying to stay above water...getting passed! But definitely a cool analogy to the Christian life: ENDURANCE, rather than speed is often spoken of in the Bible! Those that are saved ENDURE to the end! Additionally, we are definitely NOT to conform to this world! Let us be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our mind and MOLDABLE for the path and PACE God has laid out for us in His will! AMEN! :)

Comment by: Danielle at January 17, 2007 12:19 AM

Good thoughts, LR. I got a good laugh out of this as well, even though I am one of those who wears goggles and considers himself a serious swimmer.
But do those young athletic lifeguards consider me a serious swimmer? Not so much. They usually pace nervously, right along side me, holding one of those harpoon thingies.

Comment by: Craver-VII at January 17, 2007 5:43 PM

The same is true in driving, in checkout lines, everything. Our society is addicted to hurry and speed. That's why I was so impressed by the phrase "holy inefficiency" and how as an act of spiritual discipline, some folks are deliberately choosing to do things that are slower and take more time. Can't get more countercultural than that.

Comment by: Al Hsu at January 18, 2007 12:26 PM

At least your in the current...

Comment by: Tim Smith at January 19, 2007 10:32 AM

Lis, i love this! and i can totally relate. i was at the Y yesterday, avoiding fast men in speedos, trying to enjoy the water, more as ritual baptism than rat race. it was good to be reminded here that my presence in the pool doesn't have to be a burden to others but rather a challenge to all us (myself especially) to live in community.

Comment by: erica at January 23, 2007 10:08 AM

As a self-(and-by-everyone-else-too)-confessed slow-poke, this was a very freeing read.

Comment by: Jenn at January 26, 2007 5:54 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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