Use it

Faith & Inspiration

Long distance swimmer Lynne Cox used to wonder how she, a short, chubby girl who failed at every athletic endeavor she attempted, could ever be a great swimmer. She wondered why she wasn't built like the Swedish swimmers who trained next to her at the Olympic training center in Long Beach, Calif., who were long and lean and muscular and could cut through the water like fish.

At one point in her training, she remembered something she once heard: "Use it." Meaning, get whatever it is that you perceive as a hindrance to work for you.

For Cox, "using it" meant abandoning the swimming pool that rewarded the sleekest swimmers and embracing the ocean as the canvas for her "art." Once there, it became apparent why God built her the way He did: Her extra body fat gave her an uncanny ability to withstand ocean temperatures so frigid they caused other swimmer's hearts to stop beating. Because of this, she was able to swim the Catalina Channel at age 14, where her thinner swim mate had to abandon the challenge because she became hypothermic. At 15 and 16 she swam the English Channel, breaking the world records for women and men. She swam Cook Strait, between the North and South islands of New Zealand; the Strait of Magellan; across Lake Mývatn in Iceland; and dodging razor sharp pan ice across Glacier Bay in Alaska. With each swim, and the training leading up to it, she taught her body to perform in colder and colder water, a feat that simply would have been impossible if she did not naturally carry a high percentage of body fat. It was this fat that enabled her to swim not only across the Bering Strait, but also the first Antarctic mile, in icy waters 32 degrees cold, through icebergs and brash ice.

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Instead of pouting about her body shape or size, Cox "used it." In fact, she used it so effectively that she became the first woman (and sometimes the first person) to cross many bodies of water. Her swim across the Bering Strait, in the midst of U.S.-Soviet tensions in the early 1980s, was the first of many swims she did for the purpose of softening relations between countries. In short, she "used it."

Joni Erickson Tada, Teddy Roosevelt, and Helen Keller, to name a few, used what some may perceive as their weaknesses, to impact the world.

What about you? Divorced? Come from an abusive home? Physically scarred? Tending to disabled children? Unemployed? Infertile? Athletically challenged? Grieving? Shy? Unpopular? Feeling left out? Hyperactive?

If so, remember Lynne Cox. Even if you feel God has handed you the world's biggest lemon, or perhaps just a bunch of little lemons, get moving, get creative, and for the glory of God, just use it.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.


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