Surfing Will Show You

I used to write about surfing often, because I think there are so many life lessons buried within the sport. The ocean is so big and you are just a small speck, trying to enjoy and appreciate its bounty -- it's ripe for existential thought. (I'm actually writing a book on it. If you'd like to take a look at the current draft, let me know.) But sometimes these lessons are things you may rather not know about yourself. They say marriage is a mirror, revealing both the good and the bad, and even a choppy ocean can reflect just as well sometimes.

Since moving back to California, my surf days have increased four-fold, and on a recent trip to a Malibu break, I was having a pretty decent day with a couple friends. The waves were 4-6 feet, but the swell was weak, and so the waves were only mediocre. I had caught a few, and a little set was rolling in. As the wall built and darkened, it looked to me like a closeout. "Take it, Mitchell," I told my friend, in what could have been a gesture of generosity. He went for it and it was a dump I think, or maybe he caught it, I don't remember. But after that moment, it hit me that I "gave him" a crappy wave. If that one had been better formed, or I was in the right position, I doubt the words, "Take it," would have left my lips -- I would have been paddling for it right alongside him. And with my history of surfing with friends, I would have probably snaked (stolen) the wave. What a jerk! Why is anyone still friends with me?!


Sometimes the wave can look like a serrated knife: cutting, revealing...

And that's what surfing will show you sometimes: the worst of yourself. Your selfish desires will float to the surface like the foam whitewash after a crashed wave, and you are left accepting your defeat as a cemented-in character flaw, or repenting and praying to God for a change of heart. When it hit me, I felt shameful, and apologized to Mitchell, who probably didn't care and certainly didn't notice. Still, I was embarrassed at my selfishness on the water, which may just be a microcosm of my whole life.

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
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The bible says the Holy Spirit of God hovered over the waters before the earth was formed. So it is no wonder that realizations and convictions like this can happen exactly there: on the water. Jesus said, "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:7b-8). The Helper is the Holy Spirit, and this verse reveals the conviction I experienced that day on the water. 

And so the big lesson to me is (outside of "don't be a jerk"), will you let the Holy Spirit shape you? Will you listen to those nudges of conviction, the revelation of sin and character flaws, the push towards healing? Or maybe you aren't hearing any of this, and struggle with the idea of listening to God or conscious or karma at all. In that case, I would say...go surfing. Haha! But really, if you can help it, get out on the water. You'll hear or experience something, if only the quiet of sitting in the water, staring at the horizon. And life will slowly start to make more sense.

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