Recently on one of those days when I couldn’t seem to see my way, I ran across the story of Florence Chadwick. Perhaps you know her story, but even if you do, maybe a reminder would be appropriate.
Florence Chadwick was born in San Diego, California on November 9, 1918. She grew up on the beach and loved to swim. She began competing as a swimmer at the age of six. After four years of defeats, her uncle entered her in a contest at the age of ten in a two and one half mile “rough water” night swim where she came in fourth.
One year later at age eleven, Chadwick won first place in a six-mile race across the choppy waters of the San Diego Bay Channel in her home town. When she was 13 she came in second at the U.S. National Championships. She was the first woman to swim across the English Channel, both ways.
In 1952, Chadwick attempted to become the first woman to swim the 21 miles across the Catalina Channel from Catalina Island to Palos Verde on the California coast. The weather that day was challenging because the ocean was ice-cold, and the fog was so thick she could barely see the support boats that followed her. The tides and current were against her. And, to make matters worse, sharks were in the area.
At daybreak she decided to go forward anyway, expecting the fog to lift in time. Hour after hour she swam but, the fog never lifted.
Her mother and trainer followed her in one of the support boats encouraging her to keep going. While Americans watched on television, other members of her support crew fired rifles at the sharks to drive them away. She kept going and going and going.
At about the 15 hour point she began to doubt her ability to finish the swim and she told her mother she didn’t think she could make it. Unfortunately, at 15 hours and 55 minutes she stopped and with huge disappointment she asked her support crew to take her out of the water.
Because of the fog, she could not see the coastline so she had no idea where she was. She soon found out, however, that she was less than a mile from the coast.
Later she told a reporter, “Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I know I could have made it.”
The fog had made her unable to see her goal and it felt to her like she was getting nowhere. Two months later she tried again. And, though the fog was just as dense, this time she kept going. Her time was 13 hours and 47 minutes breaking a 27-year-old record by more than two hours and becoming the first woman ever to complete the swim.
To be honest, there are some days when I feel that I’m swimming in the fog and the sharks are surrounding me. Land is not in sight and the idea of stopping seems quite enticing. I know the shore is out there, but I just can’t see it.
Perhaps you’re in a “foggy” season of your own. Whether you dealing with the pain of grief, or the pain of a physical issue, or emotional pain, or whatever difficulty you’re in, you may be hearing a voice that’s telling you it would be easier to just quit. The end is not in sight, and the sharks are encircling you.
Let me share three words with you — Do not stop! Even if you can’t see the shore. Even if you can’t see the end. Even if you’re tired and feel you just can’t make it — Do not stop! You are closer than you think, and contrary to what you may be hearing, you can make it.
I am reminded of a scripture found in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re finished. And you’re not finished yet.