FALLING SHORT, BUT NOT FAILING
For many years there was an ongoing competition to swim Lake Michigan from Chicago to the Michigan City harbor, about 40 miles. Many people tried but ultimately failed. The water is cold, the current strong, and the waves choppy. It was, and is, altogether much longer and more difficult than the English Channel swim. About the only positive is the absence of sharks!
In 1961, however, a largely unknown swimmer named Ted Erickson entered the water off Chicago. He swam persistently for a day and a half, and the excitement grew as he approached the Michigan City harbor. Thousands of people, including my family, lined the beaches and piers to cheer him on even as night fell, and the wind and waves worsened.
I never saw the swimmer. He had been dashed upon the rocks at the harbor entrance in the full glare of the Michigan City lighthouse. Pulled from the water and ambulanced to the hospital, Ted Erickson survived to swim again. Mercifully, the good folks who sponsored the competition declared him the winner. He had fallen just short of the finish line and the crowd’s acclaim but was deemed not to have failed; he had done enough. Only a handful of swimmers, including Ted’s son, have since accomplished that feat.
This race and its outcome can be seen as a metaphor of our sanctification journey. Our belief in Christ justifies us before the Father and sets us upon a life-long quest, guided by the Spirit, to become more like Christ. Like the marathon swimmer falling just short of the goal, we can never fully attain Christ’s perfect standard as fallen and fallible human beings. Yet, the Bible encourages us to run the good race with perseverance, cheered on by a great host of witnesses. At the end, we long to hear the Father’s welcoming words: “Well done, good and faithful child.” Monthly communion reminds us of grace and mercy through Christ’s sacrifice and strengthens us for future races.
Bruce Fairbairn, Elder