A few years ago I had an experience which would serve as a great illustration of a contemporary spiritual dilemma…
I had just finished my first year of college. It was a beautiful summer Saturday in southern California, and I met up with a group of friends to go to the beach in celebration. My friends and I-six of us in all-made our way down the rocky trail and onto the sand, then sprinted to the water.
It was the day after a big storm. The break was imposing, with waves up to eight feet. My friends and I dove through the powerful surf until we made it past the break point, where there were calmer waters. We frolicked, splashed and treaded water, basking in the glory of the summer, forgetting our surroundings for a couple of minutes. It was perfect. Perfect, that was, until we turned around and saw that we were a hundred yards from the shore.
My friends and I were caught in a brutal rip current that was pulling us out to sea.
That was when we came up with a genius plan: We were going to swim as hard as we could against the tide. For the next two minutes I chugged and stroked and kicked with all my might. And at the end of those two minutes I looked up, and realized I had not gained an inch, and even worse, I was actually almost a quarter-mile from shore.
Dead tired, I started to panic. I looked over at my friend Joe, and noticed he was having trouble keeping his head above water. As he slipped under the surface, he called out my name and shouted, “help!”
I quickly swam over to him and pulled him toward me. He was huffing and puffing, coughing and spitting. I told him we were going to be okay. The problem was, I didn’t totally believe it. My limbs felt like anvils, and there was no way I could swim for both of us. What were we going to do? I started to lose it. I began to pray for a miracle.
Seconds later, out of nowhere, a long-boarder appeared, speeding towards us like a hovercraft. Maybe he emerged from Atlantis. Maybe he parachuted in. He was probably angel, in retrospect.
We grabbed onto his board and began praising the heavens. We celebrated with hugs and screams as the surfer informed us of a little piece knowledge that would have served us well about fifteen minutes prior: The worst thing you can do in a riptide is swim against it. When you fight, you drown. The only choice you have is to surrender to the current. Relax, and let it take you. Then, swim parallel to the shore, where the normal current will carry you back to the beach. The key is to stay with the flow, and you will survive.
This episode provides a hint, through analogy, at the source of many of our dilemmas. God has a channel, a current, which will lead us where we are supposed to go, where we were created to go. But instead of allowing the tide to take us, we have been swimming against it. And in the process, we are drowning.
See, whether we are aware of it or not, many of us have been fighting God, fists up, resisting his plan to transform us from our hopeless, apathetic, purposeless, addicted selves into something much better. We box him in many ways…
*We battle against Him when we seek comfort and convenience over discipline and obedience.
*We battle against Him when we medicate and distract ourselves from our hurts.
*We battle against Him when pride and ego motivate us to put ourselves above others.
*We battle against Him when we forget He has gifted us uniquely and intentionally to do something powerful in the lives of others.
*We battle against Him when we allow stress and fear to control us.
*We battle against Him when we resist maturity.
*We battle against Him when we think popularity, fame, or recognition by our peers will bring us happiness.
*And most of all, we battle against Him when we forget one very important fact about the life of faith:
God cares more about the people we are more than anything else.
And yet, character is the thing we seem to have the most difficult time with as a generation. We don’t know who we are or where we are going, and we do little to change our situation. We lack drive and passion, and replace direction with distraction and addiction. We make decisions based on convenience, rather than character. It is no wonder that so many of us feel lost.
To change our situation, we must begin with John 15:1-2:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
In order to find what we are looking for, we must first become the people He desires us to be. In other words, our character must take precedence over all else in our lives. And in order to find righteous character, we must stay connected to the vine, intimately and daily. We must relent to transformation. This is the goal of our existence, and it must take precedence over all else. Otherwise, we will be lost.
The only way to do this is to drop our fists…
In what ways do you fight God? And how do you think this affects your spiritual life?