As a teenager, during the 1960’s there was nothing more exciting than surfing: Beach Boys music, parties on the beach and fun, fun, fun. Surfers dared to be unique. They acted and dressed different. Surfers wore pants with holes in the knees and T-shirts with surfer logos. They drove converted vans with surfboards on top. Surfers were so cool that I wanted to be one.
My quest to be a surfer was foolish and I made mistakes. Looking back, I discovered life lessons that are appropriate especially for our graduating class of 2013. So, let’s go surfin’.
Lesson 1: Why Use A Battleship when A Surfboard will do? To surf, you need a board. Our beach had small waves so surfboards were short and light. I bought a board used in Hawaii that was nine feet long and weighed at least seven tons. We nicknamed it ‘the battleship.’ People on the beach laughed when they saw me coming. In the water, other surfers avoided me like I was a virus.
Good preparation in life is important and saves a lot of “worry time” later. Paul talks about this in a letter to the Philippians. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Phil 4:6) Going to God first in prayer and laying out your plans in advance is an excellent way to prepare for your future.
Lesson 2: Are you doing too much paddlin’ and too little surfin’? Do you know how much energy it takes just to paddle out to the surfing area? (Especially with a battleship.) I huffed and puffed and thrashed my arms, only to have the next wave come too soon, pick up the surfboard and fling me back to shore. When I finally arrived to the surfing area, I was too pooped to surf.
Is your ‘work at it’ too large and your ‘faith in it’ too small? Frank Sinatra sings, “I did it my way” but God says, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds.” (Verse 7) Balance is such an important part of life, work and our walk with God. Keeping it all in perspective, between work and play is a critical part of future success and happiness.
Lesson 3: A sleeping surfer could get stung. After reaching the surfing area, I needed to rest. Once, I fell asleep and after waking up, found myself beside a Portuguese Man of War, a dangerous jellyfish. So much for teenage coolness as I screamed and fell off the board. I either walked on water or set a new speed record swimming to shore. The surfboard could fend for itself.
Do you know when to relax and when to be alert? We should work at having a better relationship with God in order to set our priorities straight. Then we rest peacefully in order to be more alert. “And now, dear friends, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. (Verse 8) Strengthening our relationship with God through prayer, Bible study and church involvement are key ingredients to an improved outlook in this world and the next.
Lesson 4: Waxing your board beats breaking your gourd. After finally getting the board into position, I was ready for my first ride. I could picture myself hangin’ five or ten. For non-surfers, I’m describing the ability to stand on the front of the board and curl either five or ten toes over the edge. In all my summers of surfing, I may have achieved hanging – one. Sheesh! So, with the ‘Battleship’ in position, I paddled like mad and caught the wave. I did it! “Man, this is easy,” I thought. Then, I stood up.
Did you know that a surfboard should be waxed? I didn’t. Have you ever tried standing on a ‘slip n slide?’ I slipped… and then slid off the board. So much for hanging ten.
A willingness to prepare saves a lot of despair. Read lesson one again. God says, “Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) Part of good preparation is a willingness to learn; from coworkers, friends, supervisors as well as books, organizations and web based materials. God provides a rich and varied smorgasbord of opportunities if we’re willing to open ourselves to the experience.
Lesson 5: How do you steer this thing? After applying at least three inches of wax, I went out again, caught a wave, stood up and stayed up. But now I faced a new problem: “How do you steer this thing?” My ‘Battleship’ was bearing down on some poor schmuck while I helplessly shouted: “Look out!” As my board landed on top, he stepped back and my big board actually flipped him several feet up.
They asked me to leave the beach that day.
Everyone falls occasionally. Everyone fails at something. A willingness to get up afterward is the crucial ingredient for success. Never, ever, ever give up! “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing.” (V9)
Lesson 6: Shootin’ the tube makes a happy surfer dude! Finally, after weeks of falling, I was learning to actually surf. Shootin’ the tube is surfer language for the perfect ride on the perfect wave. There are few thrills that compare with catching a wave and riding it all the way to the shore. There is the feel of the wave beneath you, the wind at your back and the opportunity enjoy an incredibly exciting ride. Surfing is ultimately a combination of preparation, patience and a never-give up attitude combined with a deep love and respect for the power of the ocean wave.
Graduates of the class of 2013. Here are my lessons learned.
- Why use a battleship when a surfboard will do?
- Are you doing too much paddling and too little surfing?
- A sleeping surfer could get stung.
- Waxing your board beats breaking your gourd.
- How do you steer this thing?
- Shooting the tube makes a happy surfer dude.
Could this also be an adequate description of what it’s like to accept the adventure of living a godly life? A combination of preparation, patience, a never-give up attitude and a deep love and respect for the power of God? Once you get the hang of it, there is no thrill that can compare with totally surrendering your life to God. Nothing comes close! Not even surfing.
The right journey is always worth the sacrifice. God says, “And the God of peace will be with you.” (V9) I am not encouraging you to take up surfing but I am encouraging you to work on deepening your relationship with God. Once you get the hang of it there is no thrill that can compare.
Here is my surfer dude prayer: “May the wind of the Holy Spirit be at your back and the waves of opportunity tall as you surf and serve for God!”
So, are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? “Surf’s Up!”