(This post includes a giveaway. Details are at the end).

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 shallow waters.

Then came my school days, where swimming was a regular activity for our Physical Education (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 that I could make it by myself. The safety net was always nearby.

School galas were a time of special terror for me. Everyone had to swim in at least one race, but I got so anxious that I’d often get physically sick close to the event – so I didn’t have to attend.

But still, my mother persevered – wanting me to learn to swim. I went for private lessons, being bribed with sweet treats. Family friends had pools, and I’d spend time in the water there.

But even through all this, I’d still doubt my ability. 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. My only means of survival would be the lifeline of treading water. 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 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.

All of a sudden, it clicked. Something just clicked.

I could do it! I could swim! And without holding the wall.

I was amazed. Giddy with excitement.

I ran to tell my mother – beaming with pride. At that point, it felt like one of the greatest moments of my life: suddenly being able to swim, after a lifetime (albeit a short lifetime) of struggling with lack of ability and zero confidence.

And I didn’t know how it happened. How did I just ‘get it’, all of a sudden? And, why then?

Life lesson

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 – but 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?

The Almighty is Al-Fattah – the Opener. When He wants to open the doors to something, He does. It may seem impossible for us, but it’s effortless for Him.

But the Almighty 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.”

Quran 53:39

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 had absolutely 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 thirty-odd years later. I never really looked for the lessons behind it before. But that lesson suddenly became clear to me at this advanced stage in life.

Why now?

I don’t know. But the Almighty applies wisdom in teaching us, so there is a reason why this epiphany struck at this moment.

Maybe I’ll need to apply it to something else I’m struggling with. Or maybe it’ll be a critical life lesson to pass onto my kids for some of their challenges.

Or maybe it was just intended for me to share with others: 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.


This piece is from my book – Let it Flow. In celebration of its 2-year anniversary, I’m giving away the PDF for free for a limited period. If you’d like a copy, please email me or leave a comment below.

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