So, I’ve been wild swimming Mon’, Wed’ & Fri’ at 6am alongside Sandy & his mates, Johnny & Ben. It’s some job shoehorning my thick torso into a wetsuit (should’ve got a couple sizes bigger)! It’s even harder when you try to put it on backwards; I’m not always entirely with it at 5.30am after a short, and interrupted, sleep.
Some ‘hard-core’ friends accused me of ‘wimping out’ by donning a wetsuit in July, so anticipating record-breaking summer heat in Scotland, I’d no excuse not to go bare-skin swimming at Shewalton Pond, next to Booker’s. How do you psych yourself up to do something counter-intuitive, against the grain, different from your norm? Well, I find myself dreaming the night before, imagining myself feeling the cold, going under, and getting right into the swim, putting aside all fears and reasons not to do it. Thus, I wake ready and keen to get on with it. I see my target and go for it: ‘See it, Believe it, Achieve it!’ It’s the same mantra I shared with Kenny Shiels (I was Killie FC’s chaplain at the time), which he used to encourage and inspire Killie to victory in the Scottish League Cup in 2012, and it helps me be positive minded, overcome distractions and fears, and realise challenging aims and goals. It’s not an excuse to skimp on preparation and training, but a great aid to realising hopes and dreams.
However, it’s not as important a role as God and ‘faith’ in the equation. Here lies the secret of my ‘super strength’, the gracious gift of faith, which trusts in Almighty God and Holy Spirit help to back you. In Psalm 18 (verses 28-36 in The Message Bible) King David describes this special adrenalin aid that his Faith in God shoots into him,
“Suddenly, God, you floodlight my life; I’m blazing with glory, God’s glory! With your strength I can crush an army, I vault the highest fences. What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth.
Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs (swims) toward him makes it. Is there any god like God? Are we not at bedrock? Is not this the God who armed me, then aimed me in the right direction? Now I run like a deer; I’m king of the mountain. He shows me how to fight; I can bend a bronze bow! You protect me with salvation-armour; you hold me up with a firm hand, caress me with your gentle ways. You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm…”
Paul brings it home by writing, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) It’s not to say that ‘everything’ is possible, but there are incredible things we can achieve with Christ’s help.
So, there I was in my ‘pint o’ milk’ white skin suit breaching Booker’s chilly waters to do the loop (665 metres), and it was magnificent! It wasn’t a major achievement in the bigger scheme of things, but a small example of how positive visualising, faith and Holy Help can make all the difference in life and living.
And my ‘skinny-dipping’, with trunks on, may be trend-setting with my 6am young guns, though I’m sure their complexions will be darker than my ‘semi-skimmed’ suntan.