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Believing Is Swimming
by Brad Larsen
I swallowed hard and hesitated before continuing. It was my last conversation with my swimming coach before leaving on a two-year mission for the Mormon Church. My trembling voice was evidence that I wasn’t very good at explaining my beliefs.
Coach told me he didn’t see the need for a belief in God. Science answered all of his questions, and religion seemed an unnecessary ideal. “If only I could make him see,” I thought. “If only he knew how much a belief in God would help him.”
Then my thoughts turned to swimming, our common passion. To anyone other than a swimmer it must seem a waste to spend between two and five hours in the water each day, monotonously stroking back and forth across a 25 yard pool. But to me, and even more so to Coach, it was an incredible experience.
I struggled for the right words, but they were buried somewhere beneath my fear.
I couldn’t figure out how to respond to Coach then, and years later I continue to reflect on the experience. Coach swam because he had a goal of improvement. He had seen results and he was confident of seeing more. I swam because I had a goal, and I kept swimming because I was achieving the goal.
Believing in God is similar to any goal or passion. With a goal comes a determination and dedication that overpowers reason’s question, “why spend your time and energy on something you can’t even see?” I had never seen a medal before I began swimming. As I swam, however, I could feel myself approaching the goal and that made me thirsty to continue. I practiced constantly to improve. Just as I hadn’t seen a medal, I haven’t seen God, but that is my goal. The belief I have in God and the religious practices I do are just that – “practices” to improve and to move toward achieving a long term goal.
And the satisfaction isn’t limited to the achieving of the goal, but also includes the work and “practice” that comes along the way. Hours of continuous laps in chlorinated water might seem absurd to those unacquainted with the sport, as might time dedicated to church attendance, scripture study, and prayer to those unfamiliar with religion. Similarly, a strict training schedule and diet might appear an unnecessary restriction, as might a religious code of health or of sexual abstinence. To one who lives these guidelines, however, with a goal in mind, these “restrictions” become liberating stepping stones to championship.
The aspiration of seeing God, of being with Him, and the goal of happiness in this life inspire me to live according to my religious beliefs. I couldn’t seem to explain it to Coach, but I hope someday I will have that chance to tell him what I have come to understand: believing is swimming.