Did I ever tell you about the time I was almost a lifeguard?
I was seventeen and applied to be a counselor for Campfire Boys and Girls. They accepted me, but also asked if I would be willing to be the camp lifeguard. I grew up swimming a lot but was really unsure if I was capable of saving someone and shared my concerns.
“Just try it,” they told me and gave me specifications about where to show up for an all-day Saturday training.
So there I was the following Saturday in my swimsuit and flip-flops with a towel slung over my shoulder. (Just in case you are trying to visualize the story, may I remind you this was a pre-three-babies much trimmer version of me?)
The first indication I was out of my element was when everyone pulled off their t-shirts and Umbro shorts, and I was the only one in a swimsuit from TJ Maxx. Every other person there was wearing a Speedo brand suit from his or her swim team.
They started doing secret swimmer stretches while I stood on the side rubbing one foot on the other secretly pulling my suit from my rear.
We started the day with 20 laps; the first 10 were to be breaststroke and the rest freestyle. I jumped in the water and eyeballed the Speedo in the lane next to me to figure out what breaststroke looked like.
Every other lane in the pool was operating in fast forward, but someone had placed my lane in slow motion. It must have been, because I was working and stroking, but my body wasn’t propelling.
As I was on my 15th lap, the other swimmers started jumping out. They were already done. Two others were still in the pool, so I pressed on. Before I could return to the side for lap 16, the last two hopped out. So I did the only thing any respectable girl who was out of her element could do – I reached for the side and hollered, “Twenty” with a huge sigh. The sigh was real, the twenty not so much.
I pulled myself from the pool and fought the urge to vomit. We moved to the deep end and listened to our next test. We were to retrieve a 10 lb. weight from the bottom and hold it over our head while we tread water.
Miraculously, I heard the instructions over the loud wheezing sound coming from my mouth. I allowed others to go first, giving me a chance to catch my breath. I completed this task on the second try.
The next test was swimming the length of the pool without coming up for air. I’m pretty sure the pool was 3 miles long. At least that’s what it felt like. Many of the super swim-teamers had to try this multiple times before succeeding. On my third try I was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, but by the grace of God I did it.
I drug myself from the water and fought the urge to throw up. I spent the entire morning in agony and was thoroughly convinced guarding someone’s life was not in my future.
“I just don’t think I can do this. I’m about to die,” I told the trainer.
He looked shocked and said, “But you are doing such a good job. You are good at this. We are going to watch a film now. Are you sure?”
I was sure the minute after I arrived. I wanted to shout that I cheated on the laps and my lungs were about to explode. I wanted to ask if he was crazy. But I was so out of breath all I could manage was, “I’m sure.”
Wrapped in my towel I walked out into the warmth of the sun. I couldn’t wait to eat my lunch. Swimming works up an appetite, and it had to be almost lunchtime if not slightly past it.
I collapsed in the seat of my car, cranked it and stared at the clock in disbelief. Tapping it didn’t change the time either.
9:28 a.m.?? 9:28 a.m.!!! What seemed like an entire lifetime was only one hour and 28 minutes.
I ended up being the songs and games counselor that summer, but I’ll never forget the longest hour and 28 minutes of my life.
I’ll leave the lifeguarding to the swim team. And to God.
Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:20 NIV
Have you even taken the lifeguard test? Have you ever experienced a time that drug on forever? How has it changed the way you view things?