When Through Deep Waters I Call Thee to Go

This is a guest post from Andrea R. She is the wife of a wonderfully supportive husband and mother of three little boys aged 5 1/2, 2 1/2, and 6 1/2 months. She served a mission to Chile and received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from BYU. She also teaches Microbiology part time at a local community college and is the 4th Sunday Relief Society teacher. She has recently become a triathlete.When I was a little girl, about 4 or 5, I nearly drowned in the Snake River during a ward campout. I have few memories of the event ”“ just being under the water and seeing the murky brownness, and then being pulled out by the father of one of my friends. I was afraid of the water for a little while, but my parents signed me up for swimming lessons, and I became a fairly good swimmer. I never did like open water, however.

Growing up, I was about as geeky as you could get ”“ I wore glasses, loved science classes, and I had asthma. PE was torture for me, especially when we had to run. Running was my nemesis because it always seemed like I either had an asthma attack from running or I worked myself up into such a frenzy that I gave myself an asthma attack just by virtue of the fact that we were running in PE. Needless to say I was never much of an athlete growing up.

I found fencing in college, and I loved it ”“ for the first time in my life I was doing something athletic. I felt strong and powerful, and I actually beat the boys! No running was required, but strength, agility, and intelligence (and being left-handed, which I am) gave you an advantage. I fenced for several years, became a nationally ranked fencer and competed in events all over the country. For the first time ever, I felt like an athlete. It was one of the best times of my life.

Then, I met the man who would become my husband, I started graduate school, and I decided it was time to hang up the foil and become an adult. I was so sad to stop fencing, and I still miss it every day. But, I realized you can either be a hard-core fencer, or you can have a life and a family. I chose the latter. Chris was a runner ”“ he had run in 5k’s practically his whole life; he has long legs and lots of stamina. He encouraged me to run with him, and I was a dismal failure. But we ended up running some 5k’s together despite my lack of ability. It was always torture for me. When people talked about a “runner’s high” I just laughed. Running was nothing but pain for me, but I did it because I knew I needed to get some exercise. I tried to hold on to the athleticism I had developed when I was fencing, but life got in the way, so I just tried to stay in some kind of shape.

Fast forward to about 9 months ago: I was pregnant with my third son and sitting in a book group discussion with some close friends. Three of us were pregnant at the time, and one of our friends started telling us about the triathlon that she was going to compete in. It was an all-women sprint triathlon ”“ ½ mile swim, 12 mile bike, and 3 mile run. All of us got really excited about the idea of competing in a triathlon. Each leg of the triathlon seemed entirely doable, so we all committed then and there to do the next one in October. The excitement spread to others, and we ended up with 9 women from our ward who were training for the event.

Six weeks after my son was born via c-section, I headed back to the gym. I hadn’t exactly been in tip-top shape before I got pregnant, so I was kind of starting at ground zero. I worked out a schedule of running, biking, and swimming, but it was hard work, and there were many times when I was so exhausted and sore I didn’t know that I could maintain my training schedule. But the excitement generated by my friends kept me going. When we saw each other in the hallway at church, we talked about the triathlon. When we went to Relief Society and to Enrichment activities together, we talked about the triathlon. When we met each other at the park or in play groups with our kids, we talked about the triathlon. We worked out together, we gave each other tips and ideas that we’d read about and heard about from other people who had done triathlons. It was amazing to feel the sisterhood in that group.

However, there were still some roadblocks in my way. Running was still so hard for me. I participated in a couple of 5k runs in anticipation of the triathlon and I could feel the anxious frenzy of my body when I’d start to breathe heavily. I’d have to stop and walk during the race, and I was so discouraged. I was always sure I was going to have an asthma attack, even though I hadn’t had one in over 10 years. Then, we all decided to try swimming in the lake a few days before the race. Nine women with twelve children (including 4 babies) went down to the lake where the event would be held. We decided to go in two waves so that half of us could watch the kids while the other half swam, and then switch. I was in the second wave, and a few meters out into the lake, I panicked. The water was murky and black, and I couldn’t see my hands in front of me when I went under water. All of a sudden, I was a little girl again who was drowning in the Snake River. I was terrified, and I knew I was going under. Thankfully, we’d positioned one of the sons of the moms in our group in the lake with a kickboard, and I was able to float on the kickboard and kick my way back. I had never felt so discouraged, so disappointed in myself, so ready to quit. I cried all the way home ”“ all that training for nothing!

After talking to my husband and my friends, who were understanding and encouraging, I resolved I was not going to let that lake get the best of me. I had worked too hard for too long to quit now. I realized that fear was getting in the way of my success. I had trained for 4 ½ months ”“ I knew I was physically up to the task, but my fears of having an asthma attack and drowning in the lake were holding me back. That night I spent studying my scriptures, looking up every reference to fear. Here are some of the references I found:

D&C 38:30: “”¦if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”

D&C 6:36: “Look to me in every thought. Doubt not, fear not.”

Moroni 8:16: “”¦I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.”

Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with me, be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

The scripture from Isaiah led me to one of my favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation.” This had always been the hymn that strengthened and calmed me during times of adversity. As I read the fourth verse, the words jumped out at me as they never had before:

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go

The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,

And sanctify thee to thy deepest distress.”

I realized that I was going through the deep waters literally as well as figuratively. With this race, I was going through the deep waters of my fears ”“ fear of having an asthma attack on the run, fear of drowning on the swim, fear of failure. I also realized that I needed to face my fears to overcome them, and lean on the Lord. My husband gave me a blessing, I meditated on the scriptures I had read, and I went back out for another lake swim before the race. Verse 4 of “How Firm a Foundation” became my mantra as I swam. I had an image of the Lord’s mighty right hand coming up from the bottom of the lake to buoy me up.

The day of the race came, and I willed myself to be calm. I meditated. I prayed. I breathed deeply. I sang the words of the hymn over and over in my mind. My friends, my sisters, were all there with me, and I felt their strength. We prepared our bikes and headed down to the water. Our families were there to cheer us on. The day was overcast as the horn blew and we went into the water. Dark, choppy water and swimmers surrounded me as I chanted to myself, “when through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow”¦” Suddenly I was to the first marker, then the second, then in the home stretch. My mantra helped me relax and push my stroke forward, and then I was out of the water! As I ran to the transition area to pick up my bike, my heart was filled with gratitude. The Lord had held me up with His mighty right hand.

I completed the bike leg with one of my better biking times, and headed into the run. By now, the adrenalin (and I believe, the Spirit) was coursing through me and I was no longer worried about the run. I knew I had prepared. I knew I could run. And I did. I ran almost the entire course, only stopping to walk a little when I developed a stitch in my side. I crossed the finish line in a sprint with my arms in the air.

Even though I came in last out of my group of friends (but not last in the race!), I had done a huge thing ”“ more than completing a physically demanding triathlon, I had overcome my fears ”“ I had gone through those deep, dark, murky waters of fear and self-doubt with the Lord’s help. The rivers of my fear and sorrow did not overcome me, because He was with me every step of the way. It was an amazing spiritual and physical experience, and I can’t wait for the next one.

About Andrea R.

(Blog Team) is the proud mother of three sons aged 11, 8, and 6. She is currently working as a freelance science writer and blogger while preparing to apply for a PhD program in Science Education. In between working, managing her younger sons and her oldest son's medical needs, she likes to squeeze in a triathlon if she can. Also, her husband rocks.

19 thoughts on “When Through Deep Waters I Call Thee to Go

  1. Andrea,

    Congratulations! What an accomplishment! I can relate because I have asthma,too. Your description of high school PE class is all too familiar. It’s amazing what our bodies can do!

  2. That was wonderful!

    When I was at BYU, the first few times I hiked to the Y were extremely hard for me. It became a great exercise of overcoming myself to make it to the top, symbolic of the spiritual and emotional growth I was trying to make at the time.

    I love that your triathlon had those different levels of challenge and meaning for you.

  3. Thank you all so much for your comments! I’m glad that my experience was helpful to you. I didn’t realize at first when I started training that it would become such a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.

  4. Thank you for sharing those scriptures. I take comps for my M.A. on Saturday, and I vascillate between confidence and paralyzing fear. “How Firm A Foundation” has long been a favorite hymn of mine…I will keep it in mind as I’m furiously writing! Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this! Perfectly timed for me.

    And I’m so impressed with your accomplishment! Very inspiring!

  5. I love this story! I love this photo!

    I’m very taken with this account of a group of ordinary women doing something extraordinary. Hats off to you, Andrea and friends!

  6. Andrea, where exactly did you fence? I was at Utah Valley Sport Fencing for about 5 years during the late 90s. More of a sabre person myself though.

    I’ve kind of fallen off the wagon myself since opening my own law practice. Love to get back into it, but I hear you when you say “you can either be a hard-core fencer, or you can have a life and a family.”

    Still, it would be nice to get certified as a referee or something…

  7. Seth,
    Yes, I fenced at UVSF with Julie until about 1997. I did epee and foil. My maiden name was Pratt, so we probably ran into each other. Sorry if I gave you bruises. :)

  8. Naw. The bruises are one of the benefits of fencing! It makes you feel like you actually did something. And once you get used to it, they don’t hurt much. It wasn’t a huge group, we probably did fence each other a few times. Never did get a letter ranking. Julie said I should have been at least a D rank, but I kept stinking it up in pools during tournaments. I always was slow out of the starting gate…

    Now I’m looking at the photo trying to figure out which one you are.

  9. Okay, Andrea, now we’re all straining our eyes, trying to make out those numbers. Just tell us which position you’re in, counting in from the left or the right.:-)

  10. Andrea,
    I am so impressed! What a wonderful accomplishment and triumph over adversity! This is a great story. Thank you for sharing it. Flo

  11. What a great story! I’m so honored to know you and call you friend. :-) And for the record, I NEVER thought you were a geek in high school!

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