Surf’s Up…NOW!

“Let’s go surfing” I said to my wife and daughter (more pics here), as we pondered what to do with the few hours we wouldn’t be involved with family for my niece’s wedding.  The girls were all “yes,” and so after calling a friend from a summer conference at which I spoke, we found ourselves on the beach this past Friday morning with surf boards, under the tutelage of a man who grew up in the waves, and taught us with the patience of Job!

I grew up in Central California, closer to mountains than water.  When I attended college on the coast, those pesky architecture labs and physics classes left little time for the beach.  I’d never surfed, though I’d watched them from the shore, and even in the water as, at times, I’d “body surfed.”  In my ignorance, I thought that since I skied and climbed rocks, surfing would be easy– sort of like the transferable skills of someone moving from managing a Starbucks to managing a Spaghetti Factory: different product, same skills.

Nope.  I was mighty wrong!  It turns out the girls were, by the end of the day, better surfers than me.  We all managed to stand on our boards, but me the least often (once), and for the shortest time (blink..I’m down).  What makes this sport so different than the others?

Timing.

This is NOT me...it's my daughter.

With skiing and rock climbing, timing is basically nothing.  Take skiing:  You get off the lift and then you adjust your boots, settle your poles into your hands, take a picture of the pretty snow, talk with your friends, ponder the snowboarders sitting in the snow all over the mountain, look down and assess the terrain, decide to descend, change your mind as your eye catches a bird in flight, change your mind again, and then go.  “Anytime today” is not an exaggeration.

Then there’s surfing.  Teacher Ted says, “When the wave starts coming, you paddle like crazy, and then when you feel the full force of the wave carrying you, stand up.  Don’t wait, or you’ll miss the wave!”  I try this, and when I feel the full force of the wave, I ponder: “I’m now feeling the full force of the wave – this feels powerful.  I need to stand up now.  OK, I’ll stand.”  I’m now on a knee, but still thinking, “This is a bit intimidating, which is amazing because I’m on a tiny wave in shallow water,” and then BAM… the wave is gone and I fall over.

This is me...thinking too much.

I did this a dozen times.  I’ve come to discover that there’s only about a two-second window in this sport, and if you miss it, that wave–and all it could hold for you–is gone.  The key:  NOW!  After trying and failing 11 times out of 12, I watch my daughter, who, after a try or two, is up on the board surfing.  Then my wife does the same thing.  I try again, think too much again, and fall again.

Don’t get me wrong.  I had more fun than anyone deserves to have.  But I learned things too, about my life.  Just one day earlier, I was sitting in a conference and the speaker said, “If you need to have the hard conversation with someone and you’re putting it off, your leadership will fall short.  When you know the right thing to do, you need to do it, not later, but NOW!”  Ouch, there’s an ache in my stomach, for I know that there are times when I think too much, introspect too much, consider options too much– all as a cloak for avoiding the hard thing.

Jesus talked about this too, as did Peter. The “day of visitation” in the Bible is a time that comes upon you, a time when you know the right thing to do because God is speaking with crystal clarity to you about your money, or your time, or a particular relationship, or your sexuality, or your addiction, or a hard conversation you need to have.  The point both guys are making is this:  When you hear God’s voice, do not wait!  Act on it, because, like a wave that will pass you by, all the energy that will take you places you could never go on your own will pass you buy if you blow off the clear conviction of the Holy Spirit by ignoring His voice.

Surfing was great fun but it also contained, for me, a great truth: When God is calling you to do something, don’t think it to death.  Do it!

There are people who will read this and, in the reading, be convicted that something in their life needs to change.  I have one word for you:  NOW!

O Lord Christ;

Some of us have been paddling in the surf forever, going to church meetings, and playing at godliness, but letting wave after wave pass us by.  No wonder we’re tired, or bored, or bitter, or all three.  Thank you that you speak to us in the midst of our wanderings and failings.  As we hear, I pray that you’ll not let us rest in delay tactics, or over analysis.  Give us the strength and faith to get up and do the right thing – today.  Thank you in advance for what awaits, as we follow.

Amen.

Don’t let this post pass you by without giving your Teacher a chance to speak…adventure awaits.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • LS

    Wow! I love this post! I think I’ve learned this one, most of the time, but only because I’ve failed at it miserably so many times in the past, paid such a high price for it, have experienced the heartache that comes from being afraid to act, of not trusting God’s voice, of avoiding the hard talks, the tough decisions. The path is so much easier than I think it will be, and more fun and enlivening, when I listen for God’s voice in my life, trust in his love and act on his guidance.


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