Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts from the Far Side of the Pool

Hi Friends!

This week, as the weather has warmed enough (finally! -- we've been having winter weather all summer here in Salinas) to get some good swimming in, and Bryan and I are pondering new direction for adult ministries at church (exciting stuff happening there!), I was reminded of this story from the far side of the pool. So, when you're feeling like what you're doing isn't good enough, consider this:

Bryan and I stood at the edge of the community pool and watched the water lap into the gutters. Two teenagers splashed at the far end while an old man slowly made his way back and forth in the far lane.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “They have lessons for preschoolers. Bethany’s old enough now.”

Bryan scowled. “Are you kidding? There’s no way I’m having a stranger teach my daughter to swim.”

“You’re going to do it?” I cleared my throat. “Do you know how?”

Bryan raised his eyebrows.

“I know, I know. You swam for Stanford, went to the NCAA, still have swim records on the books back in North Dakota.” I jabbed my finger into his chest. “But that doesn’t mean you know how to teach a little kid to swim.”

He squatted down and dangled his fingers in the water. “Eighty-one degrees. Exactly.” He grinned up at me. “Didn’t I tell you about the summer when I was twelve?”

“Of course.” I knew all about that summer, or at least I thought so. I’d heard the story a hundred times – how Bryan had gone flying off the front end of his brand new 10 speed. How his left arm swelled like a sausage. How his mother insisted that the doctors x-ray the other arm as well, only to find that both arms were broken. Broken, and put into twin casts during the summer he was supposed to break the state records for the 12 and under age group and lead his team to the state championships. Broken arms, broken dreams.

“So you know what I did that summer?”

“Well, you didn’t swim. You didn’t break any records. You didn’t win the state championship.”

“Yes I did.”


“I helped win the state championship.”


“The coach put my in charge of the littlest kids. He didn’t have time to teach them. But I did. I had all summer.” Bryan gazed over the pool. A smile twitched his lips. “I taught over a dozen little kids to make it from one end of the pool to the other. And because of them we won the state championship that year. You wouldn’t believe how many points those kids won just because they could swim across the pool.”

“You never told me that.”

He shook his head. “It wasn’t always pretty, but it worked. And we won.” His voice lowered. “Even without the team’s ‘big star.’” He stood and playfully flicked droplets of water over my shirt. “So I think I can teach our daughter how to swim.”

I laughed. “Okay, I guess you’re qualified.”

Bryan rested his hand on my shoulder. “Glad you agree. Now let’s go home.”

We turned from the pool and walked back to the parking lot. As I got into our car and buckled my seatbelt, I glanced over to Bryan in the driver’s seat. “You know, that is the most profound story I’ve heard in a long time.”


“Do you think it works like that in God’s kingdom too?”

“What are you talking about?”

I rubbed my chin. “Well, I’m no superstar evangelist. I haven’t brought thousands to Christ. I write books, but we both know they haven’t rocketed up the bestseller lists.”

Bryan stifled his cough.

I shot him a glare. “We don’t have any big, successful ministry, and our small group is, well, small.”

“It’s good though.”

“But we’re not setting any records.”

“Maybe we don’t need to.”

I settled back in my chair. Paul does say, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, NIV).

“Just like those little kids were like my crown in the state championships.”

I nodded. “You know I’ve been so worried that what I’m doing in God’s kingdom isn’t good enough. That somehow I’m falling short. But maybe it isn’t about me and my success. Perhaps God’s telling me that it’s enough to help others to learn how to get to the other side of the pool.”

Bryan winked at me. “Sometimes, that’s what winning is all about.”