The water swirls around my body- arms pulling, legs propelling.

The rhythm of the stroke takes my mind away to quiet- no kids yelling, no dog chewing, no expectations drumming fingers on to-do lists. Just me and the water. The smell of chlorine and the whirring “whoosh whoosh” of the water pumps permeate my senses.

Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.

The motion is music. My body is a well tuned orchestra designed by the Great Master. I relax into the early morning worship of a swimmer in water.

Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.

My face breaks the surface and I gulp in. Water rushes in where air should be.

Immediately my brain snaps back…body takes over and starts to bark its protest. Instinctual response- fear grips, heart races, adrenaline dumps and blood rushes to large muscles…self-preservation kicks in.  But human instinct in water is to thrash, to gulp air and to clear face from below water…human instinct doesn’t save you when you’re drowning…self preservation can drown a girl.

Ten years of swimmer’s discipline takes hold to still the panicked mind.  Blow out…stroke….breathe…blow out…stroke…breathe…touch side and rest, shake off the lingering awareness of fear.

Face down, push off, start again.

Self-preservation is our strongest instinct. In many instances it is a gift that means the difference between life and death…but sometimes it can cause us to lose our life.  It is self-preservation that causes a person in water to drown. It’s what causes a drowning man to fight. Water isn’t the only place where self-preserving instinct is dangerous.

Self-preservation will kill us in the spiritual world.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25


As Christians, don’t we struggle with self-preservation more than anything else?

And just like in the swimming pool, the override switch often must be discipline…must be practice. Today I ask God to help me die to self….to give me a heart to serve only one master- Jesus Christ.

“The unalterable basis of an open heaven is a grave, and a crisis at which you come to an end of your own self-life. It is the crisis of real experiential identification with Christ in His death.”

-T. Austin Sparks



4 thoughts on “Self-Preservation

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