The name Florence Chadwick might not be familiar for many people today, but in the early 1950s she was renowned for her open water long-distance swimming prowess. She set records for swimming the English Channel, both from France to England and from England to France. But perhaps her most notable swims came in 1952 while attempting to swim the 26 miles from the California coastline to Catalina Island.
In her first attempt, flanked by people in small boats to watch for sharks and help if needed, Chadwick encountered thick fog about 15 miles into her swim. She began to doubt whether she could complete the swim. After another hour, unable to see the fog-obscured coastline, she asked to be pulled out of the water. While sitting in the boat near exhaustion, Chadwick realized she had given up her quest just one mile from the shore.
Two months later she decided to attempt the 26-mile journey again, and again the thick fog settled in. This time however, she finished the arduous swim by maintaining a mental image of the coastline. In her mind’s eye Chadwick could see the “finish line.”
I can’t imagine attempting such a feat. However, I did have a somewhat similar experience driving a car by myself for the first time. I was working the evening shift at a local grocery store about four miles away, and possessing a freshly minted driver’s license, had received permission to drive the family car to work.
At the end of my shift, about 10 p.m., I stepped out of the store into a New Jersey fog so thick I could barely see 10 feet in front of me. There were no cellphones in those days, so I couldn’t call Mom and Dad to ask what I should do. And with the seeming invincibility of youth, I determined to drive home in spite of the extremely limited visibility.
I had one advantage: I’d driven the route numerous times with one of my parents, so I knew the way well. And, like Chadwick, in my mind’s eye I could visualize my destination. It took me well over an hour, but I did get home without incident. Thankfully, other people apparently had the good sense not to be out driving that night.
Fog-enshrouded experiences like these serve as a fitting metaphor for our everyday spiritual life. Sometimes things seem crystal clear, but then the fog descends and we have no idea what lies ahead. This is when we need the reminder of 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
I’ve lost count of the many times my life’s path became obscured, prompting me to wonder whether I should proceed, pull off to the side until the way cleared, or simply quit even trying. At no time has my trust and confidence in the Lord been more important.
Many times, I’ve clung to the truth of Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Because even when the way seems clear, that can quickly change, as it did for Chadwick. Things we hope for but don’t yet have lack substance; we can’t reach out and touch them. And things that can’t yet be seen physically challenge our belief. They become “evidence” only through the eyes of faith.
This is true for every endeavor we undertake. It might be enrolling in college or changing majors. Or embarking on a new career or transitioning to a different one. Exchanging vows to begin an adventure called marriage or starting a family. Or the ultimate step of faith, confronting the portals of death and preparing for what awaits on “the other side of eternity” for those of us who know Jesus Christ.
In 1 John 5:13, the apostle John declares, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Eternal life isn’t something we receive after we die; it’s our possession the moment that we, by faith, receive it as a gift (John 1:12) and become born again as “new creations,” as 2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us.
Recently I came across an old hymn called, “I’m But a Stranger Here.” I included it in the eulogy I was asked to give for my sister-in-law. A recurring refrain in the hymn is, “Heav’n is my home,” and it reflected her hope – her earnest expectation and confident assurance – as her time on earth was drawing to a close.
Whether we’re old or young, healthy or ailing, whenever the fog sets it, it helps to keep in mind our eternal home, our final destination.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.