Just Keep Swimming

I was fully intending on wallowing in my own self-pity today, but God had other plans. Everyone was supposed to be out of the house and my plan consisted of 1. Staying in bed all day and 2. Not looking in the mirror. I had already purposed in my heart that I wasn’t going to read the Bible, open my devotional, pray or do anything spiritual or inspirational. What was the point after all?! (Now I know why my brother tells the kids not to be “drama like your mama”. I may lean a little bit on the side of being overly dramatic.)

But today I just didn’t want to deal with life. I didn’t want to be bothered with all the things I was responsible for. I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. I had done that plenty of times before, and today I was just tired. Today, I needed a break.

But plans change…as they always do. My two littlest ones ended up staying home because they’ve been a little congested for the past few days with a lingering cough. And part of me was fine with that because I didn’t want to fight to get them fed, dressed and out the door.

But that also meant having to keep them preoccupied while they were home. “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” “I need to go potty.” Sometimes motherhood is an endless list of things tiny humans need help doing. So any plans of staying in bed and wallowing in my own self-pity quickly became a pipe dream. Seems like everyone else can have a sick day, but mom.

Then the 4-yo came up to me and asked me to read her a book about Boys’ Day. It was one of those books where on one side there is a story about something and you flip it over and it has a story about something else. On Sunday, we read the Girls’ Day story, and so I knew it would be short and sweet. Even though Boys’ Day wasn’t until May, I figured, “what can the harm be.” Or so I thought…

God has a way of speaking into our lives even through seemingly insignificant and unspiritual things.

We read about Boys’ Day and how families in Japan and Hawaii hang up carp banners to celebrate the boys in their families. I already knew that, so no big deal. But then it went on to talk about the significance of the carp and the story behind what it symbolized; which I didn’t know and so I did a little research about it. Here’s what I discovered about carp and why they are used for Boys’ Day.

Supposedly there is a Chinese legend about a large school of carp who swim against the current to the end of a river. When they arrive, they notice that the water is flowing from a nearby waterfall. Upon seeing this, many of the carp see no way to continue and let the current drag them back down the river. However, some carp refuse to give up and try to swim up the waterfall, continuing to fight against the current and trying to reach the top of the waterfall to no avail. To make things even harder, demons saw the carp struggling and began to taunt them and make the feat even more challenging by making the waterfall higher. Little by little, year after year, the remaining carp gave up and were swept down the river until only one carp remained. After a hundred years of jumping, he was finally able to leap to the top of the waterfall where he transformed into a magnificent golden dragon because of his perseverance and determination.

The underlying message of this story reveals one of the most important values of the Japanese mentality: that it is through hard work and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles that we tap into our true potential. It’s fitting, then, that carps have become a symbol for the energy and resilience of young people. Like carps fighting against the current, young people often find themselves lost in a world shaped by others, pushing forward in situations that feel out of their control. Though they cannot control the current, a child’s instinct to keep trying anyway is the virtue that builds character and, eventually, achievement. The key is to just keep swimming.  

Though it swims in a current beyond its control, the carp is born with the ability to fight through streams and cascades. Choosing perseverance over resignation is a lesson we are forced to keep learning, even after we reach adulthood. This approach does not gloss over hardship, acknowledging instead how truly difficult it can be to pursue your dreams. It’s our resilience in the face of failure that builds character, rather than the achievement itself.


After reading this, it made me think of how this resembles so much of what I’m currently going through. I constantly feel like I’m swimming upstream, against the current. I want to quit and let the current drag me back down, but I just keep swimming (like Dory in Finding Nemo–I have kids so that’s immediately what came to mind when I read that!). And then Satan taunts me, whispers lies that I can’t do it, that the task before me is insurmountable, turn back and go to calmer, smoother waters. He even makes the struggle that much harder to overcome by placing obstacles in my way. But I just keep swimming.

Overcoming obstacles doesn’t happen overnight. You have to keep swimming, keep reaching, keep preserving until you are finally transformed into something completely different and far greater than what you started as.

James 1:2-4 says it even better:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

God never let’s go. No matter how far I may try to run from Him or shut Him out; He gently reminds me that even during this difficult season He’s got me and He’s not letting go. He’s not going anywhere. He will even use a kids’ book about something seemingly unrelated to what I am going through to show me that He loves me and to encourage me not to give up.

So I guess today I’m getting wet! I’m gonna get outta bed, brush my teeth, feed the kids, wipe a hiney and just keep swimming.

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