In the summer of 1980 my family moved to Huntington Beach, California. It was a great place for a teenager to live, and I quickly threw myself into the Southern California lifestyle, which for me, included surfing. We lived a couple of miles from the beach, and I was young and in somewhat decent shape physically - so it seemed like the perfect summer activity. The problem was, surfing was a lot harder than it looked, and I didn't really have the determination to stick it out. The result is that my surfboard quickly transitioned from a piece of athletic equipment to an item of decoration in my room.
I've often thought back to those days of surfing, remembering the fun of sitting on my board, waiting for the next wave to come. If you've never tried it, I would recommend it. But if you do get the chance, let me give you a piece of advice that I got from a friend when I was learning to surf: when you see a set of waves coming, you have to do the very thing you don't want to do, and that is, swim toward the wave.
Now, that might seem like common sense because after all, you are in the water to surf, and waves are a key part of that - so waves coming at you would seem like a good thing. But as someone who has actually been confronted with that choice, I can tell you that when a large set of waves is coming at you, the first instinct is to turn away and head toward shore. However, that is actually the last thing you should do. Instead, you need to swim toward the wave and try to go under it, or over it - because if you turn the other way and head toward the shore, the wave will catch you from behind and flip you off your board.
The reason I can speak so confidently about this is because I chose the wrong direction far too many times. The result was that I was knocked off my board and ended up under the water, and completely disoriented as to which way was up. It's a scary place to be, and the results can be fatal. That's also why the second piece of advice my instructor gave me was that, if I ever found myself in that situation, I need to “follow the leash”. Here’s what that means - surfboards come with a leash that’s attached at one end to the board, while the other end is attached to your ankle. So if you do find yourself under water, the best thing to do is grab the end of the leash that's attached to your ankle and follow it towards the board. Since surfboards are buoyant, when a wave knocks you off the board, and you end up underwater and disoriented, the best thing to do is follow the leash to the board – because it will be floating on the surface.
I've been thinking a lot about that this week because I've realized that life is a lot like surfing. When waves come at us, we often want to turn and go the other direction. But when we do that, we can get caught from behind, and overwhelmed by the situation. However, if we turn towards the challenge, and go through it, we can come out okay on the other side. This is especially true when we realize that God has given us a “leash” to hold on to if we get disoriented - and that is, His Word to us - the Bible.
When we're feeling overcome by the waves of life, we need to hold on to God's Word because it will lead us to the surface. And just like following the leash on a surfboard, if we follow God's Word, it will lead us to a place where we can get the proper perspective on what's happening. The psalmist puts it this way in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path.” God's Word - the Bible - shows us the way to go. On the other hand, if we give in to our emotions, we can end up overwhelmed and confused, not really knowing which way is up.
So today, let's grab a hold of the leash God has given us. Let's read His Word. And as we do so, let's ask Him to use it to give us direction, encouragement, hope, and His perspective for our day - no matter what size waves come our way.