Approaching the Ocean
When you go through deep waters
and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of
difficulty, you will not drown! ”
- Isaiah 43: 2
Tuesday mornings have become one of my favorite weekly rituals in LA. My roommate and I rise at 6.30AM, fill our travel mugs with hot coffee and drive to Santa Monica to meet our buddies. The surf boards and wet suits are loaded onto Andy’s truck and we all head to the beach to greet the waves.
For awhile, I would merely watch my LA brothers charge into the ocean before beginning my run along the shore. I longed to get into the ocean like them but the truth is that I had forgotten how to swim! About 11 years ago, I had a near death experience on a white water rafting expedition with my youth group in the South. I never went back into the river or ocean since. It has been a fear I have wanted so desperately to overcome. After all, 2009 had been a year of risk taking for me.
So on the last Tuesday of 2009, I decided that I was going to get back into the water. With the encouragement of my friends, I slid into a wet suit. The waves were particularly rough that morning. It seemed I had picked the worst morning to overcome my fear! However, as we approached the sea, I knew there was no turning back. There was nothing left to do but to jump right in. I charged into the water with the men, feeling the cold salt water refresh my skin and wake me up.
I stayed in the shallow water for a few minutes daring to go further an inch at a time. Dustin crept up beside me. “Take my hand” he said. My roommate has been by my side through some major life accomplishments this year. I took his hand and went deeper into the ocean. A huge wave came crashing down and engulfing me. With the firm grip of Dustin’s hand, I felt brave, knowing that eventually I would rise up again.
It was one of those moments when I realized just how small I was in the midst of God’s great creation. Like the roller coaster ride a month ago, this was another metaphor for my journey. Sometimes I feel lost in my struggles and challenges that come crashing down over my life. And in the middle of it, I know I will not drown because God holds my hand even when I can no longer see clearly. Eventually, I rise above the dark waters triumphant and refreshed.
Next, Dustin taught me how to ride the waves on my belly with a small yellow boogie board. I felt like I had discovered joy itself as I jumped on and flew like a dolphin with the waves, feeling the cold water in my hair and the wind on my face. Andy would appear ever so often riding the wave with words of encouragement and support. His wife Kim was at the shore cheering me on. I felt like a child who had just learned to walk. What a way to end the year!
I have been back twice since then to dare the waves. Each time I am more determined to learn, and each time I leave the beach feeling ready to conquer anything that is thrown at me. I will not be defeated by fear anymore!