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Walking Our Faith: Swim your own race

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith

Last week, I watched the Olympic trials for swimming. Swimming is my favorite Olympic sport because I was a competitive swimmer for 11 years from the age of 11 through my sophomore year at the University of Michigan.

A reporter asked one of the swimmers what his strategy would be for the finals against a very competitive field. The young man replied that he had trained for this day and that his job now was just to swim his own race and not worry about what others were doing.

That’s what I loved about swimming competitively. My race would be won or lost based on my own training and how well I performed on that day. No one was going to jump in my lane and stop me from swimming. My success or failure was up to my own efforts.



For the first six years, I was an average swimmer, nothing special. In fact, my swimming coach in high school always put me on the B relay and told me I would never be anything better than average.

But in my junior year of high school, I got a new swimming coach and a new training regimen that worked better for my sprinter’s aptitude. And for the last two years of high school, I was the state champion in my event and set the national age group record.



What do these lessons from swimming have to do with our walk of faith?

Your walk of faith is just that: yours. Don’t ever compare yourself to someone else and believe they are more or less holy or worthy of God’s love.

God’s love is limitless, and God loves each and every one of us equally. We are his unique creations. We are born with individual strengths and weaknesses that apply as much to our intellect or athletic prowess as it does to our walk of faith.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.“ — Psalm 139:13-14

This means that our journey to God will be as unique as we are, and God knows that because he knows each of us. He created us to be just as we are.

Some of us will find fellowship in serving others, while a few of us will find God in the silence of contemplative adoration. Some of us will find God as we watch the sun come over the mountains, inspiring us to praise God for his creation in its beauty and our gratitude for another day on this earth. Others will find God when we work to change laws to create a more just society.

Your job is to find the way that speaks to your heart. What matters is that you never stop pursuing God; that consistency is where the relationship with God is built.

Here’s the other thing I want to draw from the swimming story I shared: You may go for years in the same spiritual practice and feel that your relationship with God has plateaued. You don’t feel as if you are growing closer to God.

And I want to say, don’t give up. As with those years of my swimming career that went suddenly from mediocre to meteoric, I have experienced the same in my walk of faith. For years, I thought no progress was being made in my journey to God. Now, I look back and see my walk with God moved in leaps and bounds, not because I suddenly became more holy, but because the incremental, daily practice of prayer, reading my Bible and attending Mass led to a more intimate walk with God, which I only saw in reflection.

When I write each week about my walk with God, it is only to share my own progress with all its fits and starts. I hope to inspire you to draw closer to God yourself through your own journey.

It doesn’t matter whether you are starting your journey today or whether you have been walking with God for decades. God’s love is not something to earn through endurance. It’s already here; it’s already yours.

I’d like to hear from you

Please email me and tell me about your walk of faith in a paragraph. You could tell me your age, your occupation, what your faith practice looks like and how your faith changes the way you live. And let me know if I can use you paragraph in an upcoming column.


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