We have the privilege of living within walking distance from the beach. I love listening to the sound of the waves at night, and I love sitting on the beach and watching my kids playing in the sand. Unfortunately, though, our beach is very dangerous for swimming. There is a trench just a metre or two into the sea from where the waves break on the shore, and the sea gets deep instantly, and the shorebreak is pretty violent.
A little while ago, when our youngest son was about two or three, he was standing on the sand letting the waves that came up the bank wet his toes. An unexpectedly big wave suddenly tipped him over and he went sliding down toward the sea. Not realising his danger, he was big smiles and didn’t try to stop himself until he was swept underwater into the deep trench. I had been standing a couple of metres away from him videoing him playing with my camera phone, and immediately as he began his slow-motion slide down the bank I threw my phone up onto dry sand and sprinted after him. Both of us were fully-clothed, knowing we would not be swimming on this beach. I ran in after him and after five long seconds I spotted him through the foamy water. His eyes were huge as he gazed up through the saltwater at me, stretching out his hand to be saved. I lunged for him and my fingers brushed his, when we were hit by the second wave in the set and were torn apart, tumbling uncontrollably. The waves came thick and fast and I was unable to stay upright, totally losing myself in the swirling, powerful water. A minute later, the set of waves was over, and I got my bearings, many metres from where I had started. Tyden was nowhere to be seen. I was standing waist deep, surrounded by a flat sea of foam, and my heart knew that the chances of ever finding my baby again had dropped to an unfathomable low. I began to walk through the water, waving my arms below the surface, as the visibility was absolutely zero. Not ten steps later, my hands touched flesh, and I pulled Tyden up for air.
I begun to struggle to walk with him through the water back to the shore, but it was only two or three years since I had torn my pubic-symphysis and sacro-iliac joints in a fall during pregnancy, and my pelvis was not strong enough to allow me to walk through the ripping current. The second set of waves came in, hitting us from behind and sending me sprawling in the water. I held onto my baby for dear life, but was not strong enough to lift him up for air as we tumbled. I don’t know how many times the waves actually threw us onto the sand and then pulled us back into the sea, all while the rest of my children stood on the shore watching in horrified silence. I held Tyden fast against my chest with my right arm, and tried to stop our fall with my left arm each time we were dumped on the shore. But my left shoulder is weak from numerous dislocations and it gave way and I landed on top of my child.
Two fisherman stood on the beach watching us, aware of our distress, but not of my weakness to walk us out of it. I called out to them in breathless desperation, “I’m not strong enough! Please help!” before we were pulled back again into the sea. Thank God they had heard and understood my cry and they ran into the sea after us. One of them grabbed hold of me, and the other grabbed hold of Tyden. To my horror, Tyden was again pulled from my arms - but then I saw that the fisherman held him safely, and they easily walked us up onto the shore and out of reach of the waves.
A harrowing story, and one that still brings tears to my eyes as I write, but by the grace of God, Tyden was physically in good shape despite the ordeal, and besides coughing up sand out of my lungs for days, and a few aggravated old injuries, I was, too. So what is the point of my emotional tale?
In the midst of that battle, I was incredibly frustrated by the weakness in my body. My strength, or lack of it, could have meant life or death for Tyden that day. I hated that I couldn’t walk through the water more than I hated the violence of the waves. I was humiliated by the fact that my strength was insufficient for the task of saving my son. That thought has played on my mind for the last few years now. I just can’t forget how ineffective and incapable I felt. Now, don’t worry about me - I’m not silly enough or dramatic enough to think that I should have been able to defeat the waves. But I am self-aware enough to realise that I was a far-cry off of the most developed and strengthened version of myself. If it weren’t for my injuries, and the resultant lack of physical training, the ordeal would have been considerably less traumatic.
It made me reconsider what kind of person I wanted to be as I step in to the prime of my adult life. I’ve been a young adult and I’ve been a young mum; I have survived the sleepless years where my responsibilities far outweighed my capabilities. In those days, I was the one drowning, and I think it was only time that enabled my feet to find solid ground again. Now the worst of those physically-exhausting years of parenting are over for me, and what lies ahead? What kind of grownup am I going to be? Do I settle into a complacent acceptance of being beyond my twenties and early thirties, where health was a given and strength was inherent? Or do I start a new fight, a fight for the kind of strength and endurance that will carry me though into a graceful old age?
Perhaps this seems a bit dramatic to you as you read this, and that’s okay. Sometimes moments of trauma help us to focus correctly. The point is, I realised that I was not ready to accept that I was not physically able to do what was necessary to snatch my son from the sea. My battles are nowhere near done - I have countless battles yet to win. It was time for me to kick into training - to train for the long race, to start training for the kind of grownup life I wanted to live. And so Project-40 was born.
You may not be a 38 year-old woman who has survived a decade of being pregnant and breastfeeding, but perhaps you can identify with having to decide if you still have a race in front of you, and if so, how best you train for that. And for that reason I want to share my project with you - a project where I have an aim for the kind of person I want to be by the time I turn forty in eighteen months.
Project-40 is a journal in which I start off with a vision on how I am going to train four areas of my life - Spirit, Soul, Mind, and Strength - so that I will become the kind of person that not only “has potential”, but has actually walked into an intentional realisation of the gifts and strengths that God has given me. Over the next four weeks, I will share my vision for each of these areas of my life, and how I am starting to outwork them, in the hope that you will join me. My desire is that, together, we will be well-trained soldiers, ready for the battles life has for us, to fight for the people and the things that are dear to us, with the strength to snatch others from turbulent waters and the endurance to walk them to solid ground.