From the editor: December 5, 2014

Going Swimmingly?

Fingal's Cave
Fingal's Cave

Earlier this fall I had my first swimming workout since surgery in June. It felt wonderful. I don't quite know how to explain it, but whenever I see a body of water I think about swimming in it.

I once stood on a narrow ledge in Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa off the west coast of Scotland, looking into the waters below, thinking how nice it would be dive into that deep protrusion of the Atlantic and swim in the shelter of the cave. I didn't jump, but it looked so inviting. One summer when I was four we drove seven hours to a cabin on a lake in northern Michigan. When we arrived at the cabin, I immediately got out of the car and ran into the lake, clothes and all. Even now, when I get into a pool, my body wants to start swimming. While running is a chore, and sweating on a treadmill unattractive, swimming lap after lap in the water seems as natural to me as breathing. In the water, I want to exert myself.

Water is both life-giving and deadly. We can't live without water, but we can also drown in it. Some children (and adults) fear water. Until you learn to swim, it is be scary to be in water over your head. While swimming in deep water, I can sense the deeps below me, which would be for anyone a watery grave.

So to jump into the water is to put oneself at risk, or at least plunge into a medium which is not one's natural element. But knowing how to swim, I experience in the water a sudden lightness, swimming lap after lap for 20 uninterrupted minutes, exerting myself (it seems) more than I would on a treadmill. It seems easy to swim. I look forward to the workout, as much of a pain it is to travel to the pool, undress and redress, winter clothes and all, for a 20-minute workout. I love it—the 20 minutes, and hate the rest! When I come out of the water, I feel spent, but I know if I went back in, I would start swimming. Afterwards when I walk to work, I feel invigorated.

This experience always makes me think of Matthew 11:30: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." A bit strange, you might think. But to workout in the water is a labor, a discipline—work; yet once in the water, it seems almost effortless to me. A yoke is not something anyone would want to wear. It's unnatural! It means you are placing yourself, as a yoked ox, in a position to do the bidding of another. You are putting on a burden—but once taken up, Jesus's yoke is unlike others. It is "easy," "light." Really?

It's a matter true submission and giving ourselves over to Christ in love. We give up our disordered love of the world. We give up consumption of luxuries to pamper ourselves, our egos. We ask, "To what end is our striving for this thing and that?" We take the plunge into true discipleship. It's freely putting on a yoke! But once given over to the Lord Jesus, our lives are buoyed in the ocean of God's love and mercy and grace. We may suffer. But not alone, if we are in Christ—"I can do all things through him."


This all puts me in mind of the words of the North African writer, Tertullian:

But we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ [ichthus-Fish] Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water.

In the baptismal waters we are buried with Christ—and are born again. Swimming in the living water is only natural, if only we little fishes, would keep our place, abiding, swimming about in the waters of grace.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

PS. Don't forget to order your 2015 Calendar of the Christian Year and subscribe to Touchstone.