Patrick celebrating as a high school swimmer
This past weekend, David and I attended our son Patrick’s college swim meet. I witnessed a familiar scene after Patrick swam the 200-meter backstroke. When he looked at the scoreboard after his swim and realized he had cut 2 seconds off his personal record, a smile exploded across his face, and he raised his fist in triumph. He lifted himself out of the pool and high-fived several of his teammates.
I love that about my son. He celebrates any amount of progress made. And progress is something he has had to fight for most of his life. Diagnosed as autistic and mentally retarded, Patrick decided he wanted to attend college someday. He worked really hard in his classes, eventually graduating high school with honors and receiving academic scholarships to college. As a junior in college, he currently carries a 3.91 gpa.
Coordination issues also presented major roadblocks for Patrick. He couldn’t tie his shoes until he was 13 years old. When he entered high school, he said he wanted to swim on the Varsity Swim Team like his sisters. But he had a problem—he couldn’t dive off the block. He told me he couldn’t get his legs to do what his brain was telling them to do.
But he didn’t give up. He would stay after practice every day for 2 years trying to dive off the block, while at swim meets he would dive off the side of the pool. Finally, at the end of his sophomore year, he did it! And he kept going, participating in extra practices, trying to get better. Every time he cut just one second off his time, he would get out of the pool and celebrate, high-fiving his teammates and coaches, even when he was in last place in the race.
Patrick became stronger and better at swimming, and by the end of his senior year in high school, he won the county and the conference swim meets in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events. After the regional swim meet his senior year, the swim coach from Pfeiffer University contacted our family and said he would like to recruit Patrick to swim on their Varsity Swim Team. He even offered Patrick an athletic scholarship.
They told us Patrick might not ever speak, but he did. He learned to communicate with us through pictures first, and he curiously sought to understand the world of words, until one day, he spoke! Today, he is a gifted public speaker. And even more, he can sing! He has a powerful tenor voice that is so moving.
Patrick’s story reminds us to celebrate progress. Each of us is on a journey with the Lord, and that journey becomes more joyful when we intentionally choose to reflect upon and rejoice in what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.
We may not be where we want to be when it comes to progress in certain areas, but any amount of progress made should be celebrated. What has the Lord taught us? How has He led us? What has He done in our lives to this point? David looked back and remembered how he had been successful in fighting off lions and bears who attacked his sheep. With that in mind, he went up against the giant Goliath, saying, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37, NIV).
Patrick remembers how far the Lord has brought him in his swimming. He relies on the same Lord to see him through the new demands of college swimming.
We also can celebrate progress as we look out at where we are now. When the Philistines came against Israel in great numbers, the Israelites cried out to God, who empowered them to overcome and defeat their enemies. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us'” (1 Samuel 7:12, NIV). The people of Israel looked out at where they were at present and took time to celebrate their progress.
We can always choose to celebrate where God has us now, even when we cut 2 seconds off our time!
We are told, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV). Whatever difficulties or challenges we face in life, we can look ahead and know that our faithful, loving Lord has progress ahead for us to celebrate. He is doing something in the midst of our struggles. His aim is to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).
We can look at each experience in life as an opportunity to grow . . . in showing the grace, love, forgiveness, compassion, faithfulness, kindness, faithfulness, and goodness of Jesus to those around us. We can choose to believe Him and to do what He says to do. We can live in partnership with Him and look ahead to a great celebration of progress when we do.
In our book, OPTIMISM FOR AUTISM, Patrick says, “Only God could take an overweight, uncoordinated autistic boy and turn him into a championship swimmer who got a college scholarship! I do not think we should ever give up if God asks us to do something, because He is the One who does it anyway! He can do anything He wants to because He’s God!”
Ultimately, to celebrate progress is to praise what God has done, is doing, and will do. When we willingly join Him in that process, we have a lot to celebrate!
Question: What progress has the Lord made in your life? Comment (and celebrate) at the link below.