I'm reading Embodying Our Faith by Tim Morey, per the recommendation of my pastor, and in the second chapter, he points out Paul's having to adjust his missionary practices to appeal to a foreign group of people (Athenians). And while doing so, Paul says something that really struck me about God.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
- Acts 17:24-28
In verse 27, Paul says that God set up human history "so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." Isn't that amazing? God went to great lengths so we could find him...but we still have to do a little searching. I was trying to picture God hiding around the corner or tip-toeing behind us until we found Him, but it didn't seem right to imagine this cosmic game of hide-and-seek.
But then I had a thought...you know that place you just discovered in your neighborhood, maybe a sushi place, even though you've lived there for the past two years and it was right around the corner all along? You go there and it's amazing, and by the end you're asking yourself, "How did I never notice this place?!"
One of my favorite sushi places.
What it comes down to is that either someone had to tell you about it, or you had to be hungry and looking for sushi. But there it is, in all its glory (and within walking distance), and now you'll go tell someone else (or at least write a Yelp review) because it's worth sharing.
God is like that -- always there, always around the corner -- but we'll only find Him when we're hungry for Him and do a little searching. Thanks be to God though: we never have to look far.
Not only does God pursue us, he has prearranged our circumstances in such a way that each of us would be most inclined to seek and perhaps find him. Though our hearts' propensity is to turn away from our Creator, God has stacked the deck in our favor. Long before a gospel witness ever arrives, God is at work in the lives of those who will come to faith, to the point of placing people in the time and place in history that will best encourage their seeking him.
- Tim Morey, Embodying Our Faith
For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.
It's the big season here in the South Bay of Los Angeles, and with more surfers than miles of beach, it can get a little crowded out there. My last couple of sessions were riddled with drop-ins and ignored lineups, and so I thought I'd write a little refresher course on surf etiquette and handling those who don't comply.
Not an unusual crowd at Manhattan Beach.
Respect the lineup: There is a finely crafted, unspoken system for properly sharing waves, particularly at a point break where there is only one or two spots where the wave even breaks. It is called the lineup. Essentially, when you paddle out to the break, sit in the back of the line. As sets roll through, the surfers at the top of the lineup will catch the waves, and then the line moves forward. After a few sets, you'll be at the top. Catch your wave and it all starts again. Paddling to the top of the lineup right away is disrespectful and can sometimes put you in bad standing with your fellow surfers.
The inside man gets the wave: If two surfers are going for the same wave, whoever is closer to the peak (where the wave is breaking) gets the wave. If you're not on the inside, you better pull out! TIP: When you are paddling into a wave, ALWAYS look both ways before dropping in. A lot of times guys sneak up out of nowhere that have the right of way.
Be friendly: I often encounter surfers who feel the need to be stoic out there on the water (these tend to be the wave hogs too, by the way), and keep to themselves. I totally understand the solitude of surfing, but in a crowd, it's way more fun to chat it up with your fellow riders. This also eases tension that may arise at a crowded lineup.
Great illustration by Campsurf.com
Without fail, there's always some hot shot who calls waves and drops in on his fellow surfers. Snakers gonna snake, snake, snake, snake, snake. (Yeah, that's a Taylor Swift reference; what are you gonna do about it?)
So what if people don't follow the rules of surf etiquette?
Snap their leash (just kidding, but this can be a symptom of localism should you get in the way of the wrong person)
Don't stoop to their low: If you are getting up in arms about surfing, you are missing the point. Waves come and go, and that "perfect wave that would have changed your life forever that that punk snaked and now you want to punch his face in" -- it probably wasn't what you thought it was. Enjoy the ride and make some friends along the way. It's not worth it to fight over something that isn't yours in the first place.
It's okay to give a gentle reprimand to a guy who dropped in on you. A little, "Hey man, look before you drop in," can go a long way, and won't be ill regarded. A lot of times, guys who consistently break the unspoken rules of surfing will lose the respect of the other surfers at the lineup, so you have support.
Know when to be aggressive: Sometimes fighting your way into a wave is okay when everyone is on the same page about how to handle a crowded spot. Plus, it can garner respect, and respect leads to more waves. There is a fine balance here, but if you can learn to feel it out, you'll be set.
At that particular trouble spot, my friend found that, though he lost waves at the top of the lineup, the other surfers would recognize if you were consistently going for it, and eventually let you have one or two. This discovery, along with a little luck in position, led to a great day for him.
Today is my birthday, and I'm not handling it well.
Not in the sense you may be thinking. It's not one of those milestone birthdays that makes you question your place in life and causes you to abandon your family for Costa Rica or spend your life savings on that 1965 Mustang GT500 you've always wanted.
No, the reason I'm not handling it well is that I'm not good at asking for things or getting my way, which is what you do on your birthday!
Maybe it's more common than I think; or maybe not. But as I examine why and how I got to a place where it's difficult for me to ask for favors and gifts, I think I've discovered that at least part of it is an improper handling of Christian piety.
We're taught to put ourselves aside, counting our lives as nothing. And so, over the years, in an effort to live a "proper" Christian life, I've often gone without opinion. But are we called to not have an opinion? Or are we called to selflessly lay down our lives, as Christ did.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
A wise friend recently put it this way: If I am deciding on seeing a movie with a bunch of friends, and they ask me what I want to see, I would likely say, "I don't care," because I am probably going to be fine seeing whatever movie someone else wants to see; either that, or there will be someone in the group who really cares about seeing one particular film, and so good for them, I'm along for the ride.
The problem here, as my friend pointed out, is that over time, you train yourself to not have an opinion about anything, all in the name of selfless piety and Christ-likeness. Eventually, you are not able to form an opinion about anything! But leadership and decision making are parts of the Christian life too, and so what happens then? You are debilitated, unable to perform to at the level you were designed to, and unable to fulfill a major part of your calling.
So what's the solution? My friend summed up his point with this: the real pious thing to do is to know yourself (your opinions, your desires, etc.), and then willingly set them aside for the good of others. In knowing who you are, you are free to choose, but also fully equipped for the work you were given to do. After all, God is interested in knowing us, so shouldn't we spend time knowing ourselves?
And so on my birthday, this is what I want to do: go skateboarding, go surfing and spend time with friends and family. That's wasn't so difficult, was it? And though I can't do an all day surf session at Trestles with an infant by my side, at least I can take a leisurely surf trip to Malibu and still make time for the family.
Good, now I can test out that new 4/3 wetsuit I bought for myself because I didn't want to ask anyone else for it...(I still have a lot to learn.).