September 9, 2013

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”  Proverbs 17:3

Summer must be coming to an end since I completed my last triathlon for this year.  It was a sprint distance that had us in the pool the night before the bike and run.  My preparation for this triathlon was the worst that I have ever done.  My hope was that the base that I had built over the summer of training for longer distances would carry me through.

English: Swimming event at an indoor triathlon...

English: Swimming event at an indoor triathlon. Volunteers record the total distance traveled as participants swim laps. The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The swim distance for a sprint triathlon is 500 yards.  I normally swim 500 yards (10 laps) in about 8 minutes and 30 seconds.  I hedged a bit and told the tri-event coordinator that I anticipated doing the swim in 8:40 minutes in order for her to prepare the swimming heats.  I really didn’t want the pressure of being put in with the fast swimmers so I gave her what I thought was a very attainable time. Work and life has gotten rather busy so my training has been irregular.  Irregular does not actually describe my ability to get to the pool.  I made it to the pool the day before my tri-swim for the first time in about two weeks.  It was a disappointing workout.  I swam 500 yards in 9 minutes.  I was way off my normal pace.  My stroke did not feel good.  Muscles were complaining like they were being required to do a completely new motion.  The feel for the water just seemed elusive.  I am surprised at the difference a couple of weeks can make.

Even though I was not really ready, I still showed up for the evening swim.  I experienced a sensation that I have never known at any other triathlon.  It was optimism.  After watching everyone warm-up, I thought, “I might actually be able to win this thing”.  It was such a foreign concept that I was not sure how to handle it.

Full Disclosure:  My optimism had more to do with the turn-out than my ability.

The turn-out for the triathlon was very low so there was only one heat.  Two lanes over was a teenage girl who appeared to be on a swim team.  I figured that she would be my main competition.  I have found to my chagrin that teenage swimmers, particularly girls, have this strange ability to skim across the water surface.  I was hoping that she did not know how to do that.  I don’t like to lose but losing to a teenage girl is particularly hard to take.

I was stuck in the outside lane.  I realized by my first lap that I had no idea where everyone else was.  I did not know if they were ahead of me or behind me.  I snuck a peek on one turn and it looked like I was ahead.  A deep breath and another push-off the wall and I was heading in the other direction.  A few laps later I caught a glimpse of swim-team girl.  She had caught me and was slightly ahead as we came to a turn.

After we came off of the wall, she was half a body length ahead of me.  She was just skimming right along.  My optimism of winning this event sunk as I lost sight of swim-team girl.  I pulled with what was left in my arms for the last 100 yards in hopes of salvaging a modicum of dignity in the ineventuality of being beaten by a teenage girl.

I touched the wall and heard my timer shout out, “8:32”.

Wow, that was a personal best.  I have never swam that fast.  The fact that I had swum a personal best eased the realization that not only had I been beaten by swim-team girl but I had been beaten by two other swimmers.  I had sure underestimated this field.  Evidently, they were much better swimmers than I had thought.

The results for the triathlon were posted late on the following day.  I was anxious to see my split times.  I had to double check my posted swim time.  It was not 8:32.  It was 9:32, a full minute off.  All the satisfaction of swimming a personal best was sucked into the vacuum of a personal worst.  I have not swum 500 yards that slow in probably over 6 months.

It is so frustrating to know that if I had swum what I had been consistently swimming, just three weeks ago, then I would have won by over 30 seconds.  My little training hiatus affected me more than I had thought it would.

Dusty Bible

Dusty Bible (Photo credit: Chelsea Flowers)

We often convince ourselves that we can take little spiritual hiatus’ with no measurable effect.  There is the temptation to lay aside our Bibles in an effort to manage the many demands upon our time.  The value of our prayer times seem diminished during those times when all we hear are the ramblings of our mind.  It is so easy to take a seat when obedience becomes a chore and God seems distant.  The temptation of a spiritual hiatus can seem strongest when God seems quiet. I have a tendency to forget about the refining value of tests that involve the quietness of God.  I can quickly recognize a test associated with moral temptations, conflict, or suffering.  I know how to engage in those spiritual trials.  However, I am always slow to recognize the testing of God when my soul feels parched.  I am often inclined toward distraction when the spiritual milk of God is hard to come by.

It is easy for me to slide into a spiritual hiatus when I am just not feeling it.  I feel the draw to set my Bible to the side when nothing comes easily to me through the reading of those precious words.  I wonder why the Spirit seems so far away and fear that He may never return.  In these time, I can become so lackadaisical about my spiritual walk.

I seek reassurance that a lackadaisical period will not really affect me; that a break from God will have no noticeable results.  After all, I have a really good spiritual base.

How foolish is that?

We should treat the quietness of God as a test of the same importance as any other of His refining tests.  The Lord tests our hearts in many ways and the answer to all of those tests is the same – faith.  We are to live by faith through temptations, conflict, suffering and the quietness of God.

A spiritual hiatus is the worst response to the quietness of God because it is the opposite of faith.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)  Our hopes and convictions are being tested as God weans us from the sweetness of His spiritual milk for a period of time.

Faith responds to dryness by returning us to our true hope and conviction.  Dryness forces the child of God to return to the promises of God.  The last thing we should do is drift or stagnate.  Nothing good will come from setting our devotion aside even for a short period.

The quietness of God is a refining that we must embrace through the grace of God even though we don’t feel it.  It is a testing necessary for our sanctification.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I have not been “feeling it” much as of late.  Forgive me for mailing in so much of my time with You.  Forgive me for once again failing to recognise the test.  Lord, draw me close to You; send the refreshing sweetness of your Spirit.  Father, open my eyes to your word once again.  Feed my hungry soul.  However, if the test is not done, sustain me, O’ Lord.  Show me your promises; keep me on the firm foundation, keep me from wandering and drifting, keep me moving toward You.   Refine my mind, my heart, my soul.  Do your work in me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


  1. Reblogged this on ezrascrollofscribes.

  2. […] "JUST A LITTLE HIATUS" – Sept. 8. […]

  3. I love that prayer! I need to pray it as well. This was such a touching blog post. It really reached out to me. Thank you!

  4. I’m wondering here…when someone beats me in a race or nestles close to Christ while I feel removed, my reaction needs to be celebration of that person and this moment of joy in her life (Romans 12:15). Boy, that’s hard! Jealousy and pride leak in, interfering with the total happiness I should feel for her. All I can do is fight the feelings and pretend to be ecstatic until my emotions catch up to my actions. I think my wondering need to become seeking! Seeking God’s Word for his wisdom, and seeking God’s heart for strength and healing. Thank you, JD, for pushing my thinking with your honest, insightful post.

    • Nancy – you are so right. We should be celebrating other people’s excitment and joy even when we aren’t feeling it. That probably is the best response; to be motivated to dig in deeper. Thanks for your comments.
      God Bless!

  5. I really feel the sincerity of that prayer.

  6. I wish I had the talent to turn my life’s circumstances into lessons. I’m doing my last tri of the year this Saturday. Hope you had a good season despite the bad swim time.

    • I had a really good season this year. I got to do two olympic distance and one sprint distance tri this year. How did your last one go for you?

  7. Thank you JD for wise words at just the right moment. Due to injuries I have not been very active lately, and am finding it hard to work back to the limited fitness I normally enjoy because of my disability. I didn’t realise it was hard for athletes too. And the same has happened to me on a spiritual level too, I can see that now.

    • Ann Marie – I am so glad that this post was timely. I am sorry to hear about your injuries. I think it is hard for us all to keep active. Hope it is going better for you.
      God Bless!

  8. Thanks JD. Blessings to you and yours. 🙂

  9. Love how you tie in your triathlon experience with your faith journey. I can relate! Had to laugh about not wanting to be beat by a teenager – I am a slower runner and often get passed, sometimes by little kids. I have found that most teenagers are going to be better than me (I am almost 50) – they have youth and growth hormones on their side! 🙂

  10. Thank you for this word! Definitely can relate to this. Spiritual laziness is so easy when things are a little tough. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. JD, I’m nodding my head with Kathie. You’re point about the quietness of God is so perfect. “I am often inclined toward distraction when the spiritual milk of God is hard to come by.” also strikes a chord as I will go off looking for “food” places other than His Word when I don’t feel it speaking to me. Yet I love that “heaviness of heart lifted” and the clearer air when I finally step off the tilt-a-whirl of confusion and doubt to say “I trust You and I will wait on You”
    Loved your analogy with your triatholon. Sorry you didn’t do as well as you hoped. Thanks for the post!

  12. I appreciate your insight into the “quietness of God” being “a test of the same importance as any other of His refining tests.” There have been many times in my walk when I have become aware of that “quietness” as I realized that I had left His question, “Will you trust me in this Kathie?” unanswered. The moment I turn back to Him and respond in faith, “Yes Lord, I will trust in You” it is like the air is clearer that heaviness of heart lifted. What a faithful God we serve– thanks for a great post!

  13. Thank you! This is EXACTLY what I needed to read today! I have been asking myself, “What is wrong with me”? I have felt so out of sorts over the past few years due to several trials that have overtaken me. Thank you for such a beautiful reminder that even in the midst of a personal hurricane, faith is my anchor.

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