My parents used to live in Taiwan. No they weren’t missionaries (everyone asks me that once they hear that they used to live overseas), my dad just had a short term business contract where he led a team of people in Taiwan to grow a business. I visited them numerous times, but one of my visits stands out above the rest. The trip I tried to beat the pool swimming record.

I grew up swimming. Not the swimming that means relaxing in a pool with your friends while having a noodle fight… no the type that means getting up at 5am in the summer to swim 8 miles before the sun comes up, only to go back to the pool at 4:30pm and swim another 3-4 miles. When I say swimming, I talk about it in terms of no life outside of the pool, a love-hate relationship with chlorine and shaving my legs (Yes, I admit that I was that devoted).

In my peak, I was able to swim four laps of the pool (we called it the 100 Freestyle) in just 53 seconds (The time is important to remember). (un fact: the world record for my age was only 45 seconds at the time). I was good, but never had my name written on the walls on hall of fame boards, or massive US swimming medals hanging around my neck. I never went to the olympics and never had a chance to really be the best.

You can imagine my excitement when I arrived at my parent’s pool in Taiwan and saw the “Pool Records” sign where it read: “MEN’S 100 FREE – 1:12.57” and the gentleman’s name that accompanied it. One minute and twelve seconds?!?!? Immediately I knew that was possible. I just have to swim this within 20 seconds of my best time ever and I’ll finally get my name written on the wall! So I had to give it a try.

I walked up to the lifeguard and informed him that I was going to break the Men’s 100 Freestyle record. He looked at me in a manner that said “good luck son, you’ve got no chance” and grabbed his stopwatch from the drawer.

Now you should probably know that I hadn’t swam a competitive 100 Free in over 5 years and had only been in the pool to swim laps a dozen or so times in that same period. But I was ready.

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I stepped up to the side of the pool, and the lifeguard said “On your mark, Get set…” My mind focused, and I was brought back to that place I had been so many times before as I eagerly waited the words “GO!”

I dove in the water, and it felt amazing… until that last lap.

It was on lap four that my body realized why training was so important, as my muscles began to cramp up, breathing became more desperate and my arms were flailing around like a bird flapping it’s wings to get the water off from a rainstorm. And weakness took me over.

I finished that long dreadful lap and slammed my hand into the wall (as if the touching of the wall harder was going to make my time faster). And the lifeguard shared my time with me. “One minute, twenty-three seconds!” I was devastated. I was weak. I missed my chance to get my name written on the walls.

I immediately got out of the water and went to the locker room, eventually throwing up every bit of my breakfast I had that morning. My body was telling me that it didn’t know how to respond to this sort of workout and exhaustion.

Then worry set in. I had before me an entire two weeks of planned activities as we were going to hike beautiful trails, walk miles upon miles, spend a ton of time outdoors, and I had just taken my body to it’s near breaking point.

Was I going to be able to be present in any of those activities? Was my body going to recover (on the little bit of sleep I was getting with all the Jet Lag of a 12 hour time change) in enough time to enjoy the trip?

I’m sure most of you haven’t had this exact same experience, but I wonder if these sort of moments happen more often than we think. In our attempt to be the best there is, we work ourselves to an absolute exhaustion and then worry begins to take over. Fear begins to creep in and it begins to affect our effectiveness in whatever our purpose was originally.

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The enemy wants our weakness to be the worry that becomes our identity. He leverages those qualities of ourselves that don’t live up to our friends, colleagues or competitors to become the obsession of our souls. When we don’t feel like we can write the way she writes, love the way he loves, dream or create the way they create, or lead the way they lead.

These small powerful statements begin to seep into our soul and rob our true identity. Satan desperately wants to use your weakness to ruin your God-potential.

“Satan desperately wants to use your weakness to ruin your God-potential.”

– Luke McElroy

On the other hand, God wants so much from us because he knows our divine purpose in the world. Were made in his image to be unique, unlike anyone else in the world. God knows it’s our uniqueness, we harness the power of being the best we were made to be. But the enemy uses comparison and pride to re-direct our focus on the uniqueness God made us to be, because the enemy is scared to death that you’ll fully realize your potential.

Satan knows the power of the uniqueness that God gives each of us, and knows what we’re capable of, and that’s what he wants to rob.

When we allow our identity to be rooted in sin, we place the weight of our hope in our weaknesses because we let “sinner” become our identity. However, when we let our identity be rooted in our salvation, then we place the weight of our hope in our strengths (which is Jesus’s death on our behalf) and we let “saved” be our identity.  Jesus becomes the focus. Jesus becomes our lead story and Jesus gets the glory!

P.s. These are some of the reflections I have had as our team prepares for SALT16: The Creative Arts Conference. This year our entire theme is excellence and how to become MORE. I’d love for you to join us: