Can you picture me surfing? Apparently, my six-year-old nephew can. He’s been asking me to take surfing lessons with him for the past three months. This wouldn’t be so surprising if the boy had never been TERRIFIED of the water. Since the beach is a big part of my family’s lives during the summer, we tried to help him overcome his fear, but we couldn’t get him to even put a toe in the ocean, let alone his whole body. So to give him courage and something to hold onto, we gave him a boogie board.
As I set about the dubious task of teaching him how to use the boogie board, I quickly learned my job wasn’t going to be easy. That first summer, his version of boogie boarding was doing it on dry land. The few times he allowed the surf to touch him and the board were a huge deal. By the next summer, my nephew progressed into the ocean. He was actually willing to go out into the water as far as his knees, which was quite the victory for him. But this summer, my nephew’s fear of water has turned to enjoyment. He is still cautious, but he also enjoys playing in the ocean. On our vacation, the two of us spent most of our time riding the waves. We went deep enough for us to catch some good waves to ride inland, but being that deep also means the waves are big enough to occasionally take you under, something that happened several times to my nephew. Even though I was there to quickly pull him up, I took the opportunity to share some knowledge a friend who surfs once told me.
Surfers teach that when a wave takes you under, the worst thing you can do is panic and thrash around. You have to relax. Eventually, every wave lets you up. The only way to get through it is to relax. If you don’t, the wave can kill you because you’ve spent all your energy fighting and won’t have the strength to surface once the wave has passed.
Although this lesson was meant for the ocean, I’ve found it applies to all of life. Life has a way of way pummeling you like the waves of the ocean at times. Problems arise, sometimes one right after the other, and they can take you under. When that happens, most people’s immediate response is to panic, much like the Israelites did when they sent the twelve spies to check out the Promised Land. Yet they became so focused on the problems – strong men and large fortresses – they allowed their fear to control them. Numbers 13:28-33 says the spies exaggerated and distorted the truth when describing the Promised Land to the rest of the Israelites. Rather than telling the truth, they said, “the land devours its inhabitants, and its men are so large we became like grasshoppers in their sight.” And because they took their eyes off the greatness of God and focused their attention on the greatness of their problems, the Israelites lost everything. They went from being on the precipice of having a land and home of their own to wandering the desert for forty years, where they were forced to endure hardship and death.
I can’t help but wonder how many of us have done the exact same thing. We hear the tests’ results, see the exorbitantly high bill we know we can’t afford to pay, and feel the sting of rejection when a spouse leaves us and we just crumble under the weight of it all. We become so focused on the problems we forget that the God who brought Jesus back to life after He was dead for three days is on our side.
I don’t know about you, but I know I've been guilty of doing this very thing. It’s hard to take our eyes off what’s wrong in our lives and place them solely on God. The problems are right in front of us and they dominate every aspect of our lives, while God is someone we have to purposefully turn our attention to, and we have to make that choice numerous times throughout the day. But it’s worth it! When we consciously choose to focus on the greatness and power of God, there’s no telling what God will do in our lives and through our lives. As Hebrews 11:33-34 says, “Men of faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight.”
The choice is up to you. Are you ready to thrive?
“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. God always keeps His word.” ~ Hebrews 11:22-23, MSG
*If you missed the first part of the series “Learning to Thrive,” read it by clicking this link: http://www.erinelizabethaustin.com/blog/fight-flight-or-freeze
© July 16, 2014