Friday, September 7, 2012

Riding the big waves and failure

Hurricane Issac showed up while we were at Kure Beach. No way he was going to let me alone after I taunted him so badly.  Even though Issac was hundreds of miles away, there were some outer bands of weather passing and with a seasonal higher than usual tide, the waves were huge - Pacific coast size.

The first day, I watched with my jaw drooping as the surfers braved the 6 and 8 foot swells. I was way too intimidated to go in over my knees. The second day, I realized I could give into the intimidation like a whimp OR suck it up and take advantage of the rare opportunity to body surf the monsters and test my body surfing abilities to the limit.

With a sense of adventure and resolve, I quickly put my hair in a pony tail, took off my hat and sunglasses and marched into the foam.  It was glorious once out past the breakers. For a while I enjoyed floating with the smooth rolling swells as I waited for a worthy wave to ride in.  

When I spotted my first ride, surely a 6 footer, I timed my launch just perfectly and dove in at just the right moment.  Assuming the rigid board like body surfing form, I was propelled forward by the churning curl until fearing it would smash me into the shore, I dropped a knee to stop myself.  From the wave's point of view, the ride was NOT over, so it dragged me a few more feet forward resulting in a skinned knee.  Oh, shucks, the thrill of the ride was worth the small injury, so I walked it off as I headed out for another ride.   

I successfully caught and rode three more monsters, each bigger than the last, but as the surf got rougher I decided the next wave might eat me. I wisely retreated to my beach chair to watch others crash and burn on the big boys.  

Some days are like that. You choose your moment, pick your battles and emerge victorious.  Maybe, you are a bit battered, but triumphant just the same. Days like these I am sure I could conquer anything coming at me.  We ALL like those kind of days whether body surfing or managing a normal day of challenges.  It's nice to feel so competent, brave and successful... if only for a day.  Days like these remind me God is with me and he celebrates with me in my accomplishments. 

Then, the next day comes.  The waves looked the same height, the surf looked no more intimidating than the day before and besides I was the same expert body surfer I were the day before. What could go wrong? 

Day two, I caught a few beauties and sailed right on in.  I owned them and shamelessly crowed like a champion.  I even took a moment and thanked God for waves, the ocean and loving life. Maybe, the crowing has a little bit to do with what happened next, but I'm thinking it was just that winning streaks end. They always do.  Sometimes, they leave you in a heap in the sand and other times roll you over and under then mercifully allow you to land on your feet.  

This was one of the good days... at least it turned into a good one. 

My last wave was tenuously chosen and my timing was just a tiny bit off.  I started out okay, but jumped in too late which caused the wave to tip me forward.  Instead of fight it, I curled into a ball allowing the eight footer to roll me head over heels until my feet again touched down and I popped upright again.  As I popped up out of the foam, I shouted, "Wooah, that was the best ever!"

I think my surf side audience's reaction abruptly veered from relief to surprise. They witnessed my pending failure the moment my feet pointed to the sky and the wave consumed me.  When I emerged reframing my body surfing failure into a completely new adventure, their perspective changed too. No doubt I failed to body surf my wave, but in giving into it, I discovered the thrill of being tumbled by a curl.  

Reflecting on the ending of my body surfing streak, I can't help but think how great it would be if failure in life and ministry could be more like that day. What if at the inevitable end of a great streak of success, others would let you push the envelope right up through the first failure?  Without fear and judgment maybe we'd waste less time on blame, worry and regret.  

God already lets us do that. Just read the Bible and see how many times His faithful crashed and burned with His full support. If those around us who watch us and supervise us would follow God's example and lighten up, I bet all of us who get out there and dare try something just a little bit more challenging wouldn't feel so beaten and battered.  We'd be able to learn to look forward to the adventures that live in the midst of our failures.  We might even learn to enjoy the experience by reframing even our most awkward mishaps into new discoveries which could expand God's kingdom. We might learn to get over ourselves and forgive each other more often.    

I'm sure you understand I'm not advocating surf rolling as a new sport or failure for the thrill of it all. All I can tell you I am a better body surfer now I know how to abort a bad ride with grace. Better than that, I know I am going to be a better Christ follower once I get over myself and learn from my failure  when my good works streaks end. 

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