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Hope Wanted: Inquire Within

In 1950, Florence Chadwick was 32 years old when she made her mark on history with a record-breaking swim across the English Channel. The next year she topped that by becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. Clearly a determined young woman, in 1952 she set her strokes on a new challenge of swimming from Catalina Island through Pacific Ocean waters to mainland California – a 26 mile stretch.

The story unfolds, as most good stories do, with increasingly challenging circumstances. Florence plowed through the cold shark-brimming waters for 15 hours, when a dense fog thickened over her horizon. She grew weary of the journey and reportedly begged those in the boats surrounding her to take her aboard. Her mother was in one of those boats and bravely offered Florence some tough love, telling her she was close and encouraged her to keep going! The cold foggy weather proved to be too much though and she finally chose to be taken out of the Pacific waters an hour later. As she settled and warmed herself on the boat, it was only then she was able to see that the shore was indeed less than a half mile away! The next day she stated in an interview, "All I could see was the fog...I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it."[1]

For many, the turn of a new year is a time of letting go of disappointing things of the past with a refreshing zeal for new dreams ahead. I'm not naturally one of those people, unfortunately. New Years has not been my favorite holiday -- Christmas festivities are over, holiday music stops on the radio stations, trees and lights come down, the cheesy movies revert to reality TV shows (for some this is all a welcome change). For the rest of us, we tend to reminisce the past – contemplating the fragility of life and how fleeting our experience is on earth.

Not only is the past behind us with the twinkle lights and jingle bells, but the year ahead and all the “to do lists” and commitments before me loom large and overwhelming, as if I have to tackle it all at once and on my own. Not to mention adding in the human reality of suffering, and the reality that unless the Lord returns in this moment (which is entirely possible!) I will likely endure more suffering of some measure in 2013. So, have I bummed you out completely yet!? Well, blessed are the poor in spirit (so you’re welcome).

Bottom line: If I’m not intentional with how I set my thoughts, I start the new year swimming in the fog.

Like Florence, I can get my focus on the fog around and ahead, and lose my hope. I lose sight of the shoreline of Christ’s presence, His many provisions (Ps. 103:2 David calls them “His benefits”) and ultimately His rescue of me from this weary planet to a perfect and angst-free Heavenly Home. When I recount the past sufferings (something I try not to do too often), I cannot deny that God has graciously provided a pathway of grace that started immediately after my point of pain. If I track it by faith, I can see that “but for” the pain, I would not be in the redeemed place I now stand – whether that looks like a deeper faith, peace, maturity, patience or life experience I now get to share with others. Seeing His faithfulness to work “all things” together for my good (Romans 8:28) gives me hope to move forward by faith, in spite of the reality of trials and suffering.

Paul exhorts the people of Colosse, and us today, to be mindful, “[S]ince, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2) Paul had many challenges in his time on earth, and could have easily given in to depressing and hopeless thoughts. Hope is powerful, yet fragile, and can be dwindled quickly with a focus on earthly things – the fog! In fact, Paul connects the faith and love shown by the Colossians with “hope” directly in Col. 1:3-6: “the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth...” Jesus, our hope! Hope of a “happy ending”, of purpose, victory, healing, restoration, transformation...these keep us going in the fog. Jesus is our assurance of all of these.

I love Florence’s story. I especially enjoy the fact that it was her own mother who nudged her along – and no doubt was a huge influence in supporting her repeat attempt a couple months later (which ended quite differently by the way – in spite of the thick fog coming again – she kept the joy of the shoreline set in her mind and completed her swim!) Look at what a mother’s influence can do for someone! And a woman’s brave nudging for another woman to keep going, don’t give up! We’re almost there!

You’ll have an opportunity to nudge other women along perhaps in their personal fogs, or be nudged along in yours on February 8th, Friday night, from 6-8 pm here at GFC during Just Women Night! Fellowship is on the agenda, so register today!

[1] Read more at See also, (The story of Florence Chadwick was shared in a taped message by C. J. Mahaney, “Loving the Church,” Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD)


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