When I was very young, I was always afraid of the water. At the beach, I’d cling to my father – fearing the waves would wash me away into the endless ocean, never to be found again…even though we’d only stand in the shallow end of the shore.
Then came school, where swimming was a regular activity for our PE class. I’d be terrified – always getting special concession to hold the side of the pool, using that wall as my crutch to go a little at a time…never confident I could make it by myself..with the safety net always nearby.
School galas were a time of special terror for me. Everyone had to swim in at least one race, but such was my psychological state, I would often legitimately get sick near gala time – so I was excused from participating.
But still, my mother persevered – wanting me to learn to swim. I went for private lessons, being bribed with sweet treats thereafter. Family friends had pools, and I’d spend time in the water there.
But even with all this time in pools, I’d doubt my ability to tread water. I would imagine myself stranded at sea – either as a result of a plane crash over water, or falling off a boat…with no one and nothing to help, having this lifeline as my only means of survival. And I knew I wouldn’t make it. I wasn’t strong enough.
But I was still required – by school, and my mother – to keep trying. To keep going for lessons. To keep partaking in our weekly PE lessons in the school pool – even if I was always the one with the disability.
A moment is all it takes
And then, one afternoon while at a family friend’s house, I was alone in the pool: attempting to swim up and down the width of the shallow end – using the wall as security, of course.
And, all of a sudden, it clicked. Something just clicked.
I could do it.
I could swim. Without holding the wall.
I was amazed. Giddy with excitement.
I ran to tell my mother, beaming with pride. I think that was one of the proudest moments of my life. Suddenly being able to swim, after a lifetime (though it was a short lifetime at that point) of struggling with lack of ability, and zero confidence.
And I didn’t know how it happened. How did I just suddenly ‘get it’? And why then?
Only now do I realise the truth: we have no ability to do anything at all. It is the Almighty that gives us ability – within limits – and we perceive it as our own actions. For example, our own inherent ability to do something even as simple as walking or talking. Yet how many people – with disabilities – cannot do even those simple things?
But Allah also has a sunnah – a tried and tested practical set of rules for this physical world:
“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives.”
All those years, through all those moments of frustration and sadness..tears of inability and lack of confidence – He put forces in my life to keep me trying. To keep me persevering. And though I absolutely had no expectation of ever being able to swim – to succeed in this aquatic endeavour which was unnatural for my land-loving legs – He kept me trying.
And then, in an instant, He opened that door – that ability.
It was no miracle. No accident. No freak of nature.
It was all part of His plan. Evidence – to my young self – that when you keep trying, eventually you are bound to succeed.
What are your challenges?
It’s weird that I only realised all of this now…some 30-odd years later. I never really looked for the lessons behind it before, but that lesson suddenly became clear at this advanced stage in life.
I don’t know. But the Almighty applies wisdom in teaching us, so there is a reason why this epiphany hit me now.
Maybe I’ll need to apply it in something else I’m struggling with at this stage of life. Or maybe it’ll be a critical life lesson to pass onto my kids through some of their challenges at this early stage of their development.
Or maybe it was just intended to be put up here – on this blog – for some (not so) random reader on the other side of the world – to come across, realise it applies to one of his/her seemingly-insurmountable obstacles, and take encouragement to keep on keeping on.
Nothing in this world happens by accident. There’s no such thing as a random event. Everything has a purpose – a set time, place, and context.
So, whatever you’re facing, never give up, and never lose hope.
Keep on trying.
You never know when that door will open for you.