March 14, 2013

“And we all, with unveiled grace, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18

Follow the little black line.  Turn; follow the little black line; Turn, follow the little black line…what lap is this?  It’s 23; going on 24.  No, wait; I don’t think I finished 23. So, it might be 22, going on 23.  Why can’t I count?  Here is the turn again.  Fine, I will go back to 23.  Follow the little black line.  I need to keep my elbows higher and reach longer. Follow the little black line.  I need to remember to make that telephone call when I get back to the office; I forgot to send that email…how should I write that…formal or informal?  Turn; follow the little black line.  Gulp…fat-guy wave… oh man, I really need to cough.  Follow the little black line.  Where is that turn…what lap am I on?


Swimming (Photo credit: AirmanMagazine)

That is my lunch time ritual. Several coworkers and I provoke one another to make the trek to the local public swimming pool for a lunchtime filled with the churning of chlorinated water.  In one of my less lucid moments, I set a swimming goal.  I thought it would be motivating to pick a goal to focus on, rather than the mind-numbing passing of the little black lane indicator at the bottom of the pool.  The challenge that I set for myself is to swim 1,750 yards (almost a mile) in 30 minutes or less.

I take a shot at my goal every week.  Yesterday, I made another attempt.  It felt like I was swimming at my practiced pace.  I felt good.  I felt (reasonably) fast.  I pulled hard on the last couple laps.  I reached long for the wall, stopped the time on my watch, pulled my goggles off…33 minutes, 34 seconds.  Ugh!

I still have to find over three minutes to cut off of my time.  That is about 200 yards worth of swimming time.  “This might be too hard of a goal,”  “I don’t know if I can keep a pace that fast, for that long,”  were my thoughts as I crouched, resting in the shallow end of the pool, as my co-worker swam to my end of the pool.

He asked me my time and I lamented my concerns about finding over three minutes.  We talked about technique.  He had noticed that my left elbow was coming in low and my arm was striking the water rather than cutting into it.  He thought I might be short stroking a little.  I mentioned that he might be pushing down rather than back on his right arm because his shoulders were bobbing out of the water on his breath stroke.  He swam a lap while concentrating on technique.  I was amazed at the difference.  He was much smoother.  It looked like he was using much less energy and was going much faster.  It is amazing the results that can come from a little correction in technique.

I returned to pondering the dilemma of my goal.  There are 35 laps in my 1,750 yard swim; 70 lengths of the pool.  If I can pick-up two seconds per length, then I will cut 140 seconds.  That is 2 minutes, 20 seconds right there.  Two seconds per pool length seems within the realm of the possible.  There are 69 turns in my swim. I might be able to pick-up another minute if I can cut about a second off of each turn.  I have yet to figure out the flip-turn so I just grab the side and turn.  Two seconds per length; a second per turn, that seems doable.

I went back and looked at my times from last August.  I have already cut 1-1/2 minutes off of my 500 yard time.  I don’t have a mile time to compare to because I wasn’t doing them.

Hey, this might actually be possible!

Every follower of Christ has a spiritual goal that has been set for them – Christ-likeness. I know that many folks get frustrated with where they are in relation to this goal.

They are churning away but don’t seem to be going anywhere. 

They continue to struggle with the same sins. 

They’re aggravated with roller-coaster inconsistency in the basic spiritual disciplines. 

They compare their own life to Christ and cannot help but feel discouraged.

They begin to wonder if the faith described in the Bible is even possible or if it is from a by-gone age.

It is good to periodically be reminded that we all are being transformed from “one degree of glory to another.”  Those spiritual giants who you respect have not obtained it and never fully will until they are with our Father in heaven.  They are working on their own next degree through the power of the Spirit.  They may have just passed a few more degrees than you have. The work of the Spirit in our lives is typically a transformation of incremental degrees.  Occasionally, we might be blessed with a quantum transformation but that is more of the exception than the rule.

All of God’s children are being progressively restored back into the image of their Father that man was originally created in.  The key word is progressively.  It is like my swimming.  I am not going to jump in the pool and swim a mile in 30 minutes.  It is going to take a lot of progressive training to bring my times down.  It is already happening.  I look back and I am faster than I was 6 months ago.  In the same way, we should expect to see a continual, progressive spiritual growth into Christ-likeness throughout our lives.  We should be able to look back at our lives 6 years ago and see more fruit of the Spirit in our lives now.  That is the evidence of the degrees of our transformation.  We are to expect a continual moral and spiritual transformation as we walk the narrow path of keeping our minds on the things of the Spirit.  As we change by degrees, the things that we desire will change while we are moving from one degree of glory to the next.

I look at our example of Christ in comparison to my life and it seems undoable.  How is it possible to pick-up that many degrees of glory in whatever span of life the Lord has planned for me; just ponder on the magnitude of that transformation for any of us.

However, there is nothing that is too hard for God and we know that our sanctification is the will of God.  Therefore, we can know that it is possible and we can trust the Holy Spirit to do His work in our lives.  We just need to focus on doing our part and make every effort to supplement our faith.

For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5)

This is how I do it – I just keep swimming.

I strive to follow the little black line that is the narrow path of my Lord;

I see a turn coming; steady, prepare, make the turn and get back on the line;

Follow the little black line;

Focus on what I am doing;

Fight sin:

Follow the little black line;

Fight the distractions;

Follow the little black line;

I see a turn coming; steady, prepare, make the turn and get back on the line;

Follow the little black line;

Periodically check my practices and make corrections;

Follow the little black line;

Swimming pool with lane ropes in place

I realize that this advice is sort of simple and a little silly. 

However, the Christian walk is not as complicated as some make it out to be.  The Christian walk is about walking.  It is about doing what you already know you need to be doing.  If you just keep swimming on the line of this life of faith, you will be amazed at how  far the Spirit will take you without you even realizing it.

When you take a big gulp of nastiness, spit it out and keep swimming.

When you lose count of what is important, drop-back and keep swimming.

When you get fatigued, keep on the straight line because a turn will be coming.

Above all keep swimming because we sink when we stop.

So, keep swimming and following that little black line that the Lord has given you.  It will take you straight into His arms and His glory.

PRAYER: Lord, I know that it is You who keeps me afloat.  I know that it is You who enables me to even see the path that you have laid out in front of me.  Thank you for sending your Spirit to teach me and to guide me.  Father, enable me to consistently follow you.  Help me to stay on track and seek you with all of my heart.  Lift my eyes to see You and help me to set my mind on the things of  You.  Thank You for being so good to me and continuing to bring me along even when I am less than helpful.  Amen


  1. […] usually pull us back.  The typical improvement for individuals is incremental.  In March, I blogged about my goal to swim a mile in my local 25-yard, City pool in less than 30 minutes.  While I […]

  2. What an amazing article. This could be the motto for my life right now. “Just Keep Swimming”. “Keep Following the Little Black Line.” I have to – I don’t want to sink. Some days it’s more of a challenge than others but it must be done. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Amen, brother. Amen.

  4. The good thing about your method of continuing to strive, is that we can only do it through God’s help. Without him, we can do nothing per John 15:5. So we are forced to work with the Holy Spirit if we want any chance of success…and that is the beginning of sanctification. The effort we make to be in unison with him is just the beginning of the cost of discipleship…giving up our will to partner with Him in His will for our lives. P. S. I love the prayer.

  5. What a great reminder that we each have to work out our own salvation (lap by lap), and that God is working with you to do just that! Thanks JD.

  6. I like your analogy, because it really is about always trying. And it’s not about who you feel is further ahead of you or not, it’s only about your own personal best. If that personal best is substantially below John’s or Sue’s or anyone else’s, it doesn’t matter. God judges us based on our efforts in our circumstances with our weaknesses. If we’re still swimming, like you said, that’s what matters. God works with small things and makes them great. Thanks for posting this, great spiritual food for thought. 😀

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