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Story Archives: Sometimes it takes more than dedication, preparedness
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|Sometimes it takes more than dedication, preparedness|
In 1952 Florence Chadwick, determined to break another record, waded into the Pacific Ocean. To date, no woman had ever crossed the channel between Catalina Island and the California coast. Her trainer and her mom were in a boat, always close to her and always cheering her on. The conditions for this 20-mile swim were not perfect. Not only was the water incredibly cold, but a thick fog had also settled in. To make matters worse, there were sharks nearby.
After 15 hours, numbed by the cold, she asked to be taken out. She was told she was almost there, but she saw no coastline, only fog. Eventually, after 15 hours and 55 minutes she was taken out of the water. Only then did she realize she was only a half mile from the California Coast. Afterwards, she did not make excuses for her failed attempt. She did, however, admit that if she could have seen land, she might have made it.
What is it that we depend on for success? Is it our determination, our experience, or our support system? What happens when that's not enough? Chadwick's experience proves that it sometimes takes more than dedication, preparedness and experience. It wasn't the jellyfish, sharks or cold waters that brought defeat to Chadwick. It would seem that Chadwick failed because she couldn't see progress. The fog kept her from seeing, not only her goal, but also how far she had come. Because she couldn't see her goal she felt as though she was getting nowhere.
Thousands of years earlier, as referenced in John 12, a woman named Mary kneels at the feet of Jesus. Without a word, she begins to anoint his feet with expensive perfume. Some wondered why she would waste so much and openly criticized her. How did she continue in the midst of criticism and shame? Better yet, how can we continue to keep our focus when we are faced with severe challenges, criticism, and sharks of our own? How do we continue when it seems we're never going to reach our goal?
It is possible Mary had her own "Chadwick" moment of regret. Remember when Mary's brother, Lazarus, dies? As she grieves, does she wish for one more opportunity to listen to his advice? Does she regret the times pettiness overshadowed gratitude?
As the story goes, Jesus raises Lazarus back to life. Mary actually has the opportunity to never again let the fog of complacency keep her from seizing the moment. Is this why she can now kneel before Jesus and follow her heart? Is she fulfilling a promise she made at her brother's tomb to live each day with limited regrets?
As the sweet fragrance from the perfume filled the house, it is evident that her gesture touched the heart of Jesus. It would appear that even her critics benefited from her offering. Likewise, when we serve out of love and appreciation, our lives become a sweet fragrance in the midst of hopelessness, criticism and even failure.
There is also more to Chadwick's story. Two months later she tried again. The fog was just as dense, but this time she kept her faith intact. She knew that somewhere behind the fog was land. In less than 14 hours she reached the California shore, breaking a 27-year-old record by more than two hours, thus becoming the first woman to complete the swim.
Mary and Florence are proof that we can move past our excuses, our failures, the opinions of others, and our own regrets. May we each consider why we do what we do. If it's for recognition and acceptance, we could soon be disappointed. Very few folks know of Chadwick's accomplishments and Mary is often referred to as the "lazy, irresponsible one."
Like Florence, we have this day to regroup and regain focus; to move past the harsh elements; to swim through the fog; to not only reach for the shore, but to touch it. Like Mary, we have this day to fill our house with the fragrance of love, gentleness and consideration. This is your moment.
Jo Ann Cooper is a United Methodist pastor of the LA Conference.