Children begin to surf at the ages of 3 and 4 where we live in Orange County. They wear the tiniest wetsuits and usually go in with mom or dad as they learn to surf the salty Pacific. It is overwhelmingly adorable.
One weekend this summer, as I paddled back to shore from being out in the waves, I saw a dad paddling out with his daughter on his back. She was tiny - probably 4 years old - and she was clinging tightly to his neck as he glided across the water on his surfboard. Her face was the perfect combination of total thrill and complete bewilderment.
Her father paddled with great strength and confidence to get them past the break to some calm waters to wait patiently for good surf. She hung on and laughed and enjoyed all the while. As a wave came in, her dad took a few good strokes, stood up, and she clung tightly to his entire body as she screamed and shouted with joy as they surfed the wave together. They did this over and over again as he helped her navigate the waters and grow accustomed to the rhythm of catching waves. It was a scene of magnificent beauty.
As I sat there, I could only think…is this not the picture of the Father’s love for me? Is this not everything that our good God is constantly trying to tell me about relying on Him in everything?
The ocean is so often a perfect picture of life. There are times when it is beautifully calm and peaceful. You can sit on your board out in the deep with little to no interruption for long stretches of time. There are times when the waves seem to be coming in perfectly, all is well and joyful, and you are able to enjoy every minute of it. There are other times when you get caught in the wrong part of the break and you get tossed around and you cannot get past it no matter how hard you paddle. The waves crash over your head and pull you around mercilessly to remind you of your littleness against its incredible power. As you get tossed, you try to make sure no one must suffer from your mistakes by getting clobbered by your board. It is a mess out there sometimes because the ocean is unpredictable. It is beautiful. Being immersed in it is an incredible adventure. Life is so much the same.
And if we resign our lives - our unpredictable, wild, beautiful lives - to the Father, they can look like that of this little girl.
I imagine, though, how ridiculous it would have been for this girl to hop off and tell her dad she was going to do it herself. Stubborn and naive, I imagine her saying, “I want to do it myself. I don’t need you to help me anymore!” Had she gone out herself, it would have been endless disaster, and her dad would have ultimately had to rescue her.
That is you and I in many seasons of life - those seasons when we try to control everything ourselves and think we can handle things without God the Father. I can do it myself. It is so easy to fall into this place. Pride and stubbornness and laziness come in and we do not depend on God the Father at all - we begin to believe we are fully capable of managing life alone. I’ve got this all under control. Then the poorly timed, relentless set of waves hits and the water comes barreling in and it may feel like we are drowning - and only then do we call out to God the Father to come save us. It affects us and it can affect others deeply - just like those moments when I pray my board does not hit a soul. Only then do we pray, only then do we realize how much we need Him, only then do we find rescue and cling tightly to it.
It does not have to be this way.
If we choose it, our lives can look like trusting in and continually walking with the one who knows how to navigate the water, because God knows well how to surf. There is no confidence he does not have, no size wave he has not ridden. He created you and He knows the rhythm of the waves of your life. You have the option to hold on to Him who is strong and sure. You can cling tightly to the One who knows what He is doing. You can keep your arms wrapped around Him and scream for joy at the great adventure that life is - the adventures that feel just like catching a wave and dropping into it with reckless abandon. Because the rough waters will come, but if you are already holding on to the Father, there is already deep trust cultivated in your bones that He can and will take care.
We get to choose which board we ride - our own or His - and the little girl on this day showed me the one I need to keep on riding. Because all she had to do...to experience life to its most beautiful and bewildering heights...was hold on and trust her father.