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The Hubs and I were both competitive swimmers a wee while ago. I swam on my high school swim team, and really enjoyed it, but swimming was never more than something I did for one season out of the year. (Winter, funny enough.)

The Hubs, on the other hand was a dedicated and focused year-round-swimmer, training and competing throughout the year in South Africa from the time he was about ten all the way through the majority of his time at university.

We were very different types of swimmers, and we sometimes laugh at how that mirrors our personalities. I was a sprinter, concentrating on the 50 and 100 Free, occasionally being forced into an individual medley here or there, but absolutely loving relays. (Always a social creature…)

The Hubs, on the other hand, was a middle distance swimmer for the most part. He focused on lengthier races that required careful attention to setting one’s pace, and one careful stroke after the other, pushing the length of the pool time and time again before the race was done.

mcolliebfly_1 {The Hubs, rocking some serious butterfly at an outdoor race.}

My competitive nature often meant that rather than focusing on my own pace (even for a 100 Free) I tended to keep an eye on the swimmers in the lanes around me to decide how I was doing. Depending on what teams we were racing, I might make it a goal to keep up or stay just ahead of the swimmers around me.

HH swam in a completely different way. He knew in his mind how many strokes it should take him at a particular pace to get from one end of the pool to the other. He knew the pace he needed to keep — down to the milliseconds per lap — in order to reach the goal time he was aiming at. Because he was competitive on a national level, to him getting the time he was aiming at was more important than making sure he was staying on par or ahead of the swimmers around him.

Unlike my utterly-social self, keeping an eye on the lanes around me, the Hubs knew exactly how to swim his own race.

I was reading in Ezekiel the other day, about the time that God instructed Ezekiel to lay on his side for 390 days, symbolically demonstrating God’s disapproval of the wayward ways of the people of Israel. {Read the whole story in Ezekiel 4.}

The symbolic acts Ezekiel demonstrated were supposed to convict the people of Israel of something very specific: Their need to repent and turn back to God.

I wondered, as I read, what people in Ezekiel’s day thought when they saw him laying on his side, day after day. I wondered if any of them thought his actions were an indication that they should lay down on the ground on their side, too.

Do you ever see the convictions another person is living with and wonder if you should live with the same convictions? I’m not speaking about things clearly laid out in the Bible that we should all determine to do — I’m speaking about the instances where a person is personally convicted by God that they should take a particular course of action with their lives.

Homeschooling is a great example. You might observe some of your friends making the decision to homeschool their kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s what the Lord is calling you to do. Conversely, there might be absolutely no one in your friendship circle that feels called to homeschool their kids — but in your heart you just know, you’re being called to do it.

This is where a living and active relationship with God, through His Holy Spirit, is a vitally important part of the life of a believer.

This is well explained in one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians:

For the Lord is Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. {2 Cor. 3: 17-18}

If the Hubs had made it his only goal to keep pace or beat the swimmers around him, he might never have accomplished the times he needed to qualify him for National Champs each year. As he would word it, he knew how to “keep his head down and swim his own race.”

I, on the other hand, did not have the bright and shining swimming career the Hubs could boast of. (Don’t worry — he doesn’t.) I never really learned to keep focused on the race that I was swimming. This might’ve meant I won a few races by keeping pace with the lanes around me — but not many.

It also, at other times, meant I tried to keep a pace that was too quick for me. I tired myself out long before the race was over, and on the last lap I was barely able to bring my arms up and over to stroke through the water and it took ridiculous effort to kick my legs — I’d so completely “run out of gas.” I would have faired far better had I swam my race and kept my pace.

In Jesus Calling, Sarah Young says of the Holy Spirit, “He will not force you to do His bidding, but He will guide you as you give Him space in your life.”

It is so good for the people of God to walk in right relationship with God. To pause throughout our day to consult with the Spirit, to find our sense of direction from a better source than what’s happening in the next lane.

We cannot afford to parent our children by looking to the next lane.

We cannot afford to spend our efforts at work just doing whatever we see being done in the next lane.

We cannot afford to only live out the convictions we see being lived by the people in the next lane.

Basing your decision processes firmly on the backs of what people are doing around you is a recipe for making complacent efforts toward complacent goals. “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time.”

Instead of watching the world around you — close your eyes and give an ear throughout your day to the incredible Spirit of God, who can live in your heart and guide your steps because of Jesus.

If you swim your race, you are much less likely to give out of gas, and much more likely to stand, medal-around-your-neck-victorious, on the podium.