Riding the Waves
Earlier this year, David and I took a trip to Maui, Hawaii to visit his parents who moved to Ka’anapali full-time about a year ago. (I know, rough life!) I love everything about visiting my in-laws and their new “aloha” lifestyle, except for one thing: Surfing.
You see, surfing has become a beloved morning ritual in the Eseke household. Morning after morning (before the crack of dawn, I might add) they strap their boards to the roof of the car and drive to their favorite surf spot where half a dozen friends await them on the glassy, warm water. For an hour or so as the sun rises over the volcano, they take turns catching waves, practicing their turns, and giggling when someone wipes out.
My mother-in-law, Heidi, is a surf goddess. She can catch any wave and looks like an athletic, ballerina as she cuts gracefully back and forth in front of the white water. While he catches his fair share of breakers too, my favorite thing is watching my father-in-law, David, cheer proudly for his blonde, surfer-girl bride as she rides a big one in. Sometimes he gets so excited he falls right off his board!
Ok. So, actually it sounds glorious when I explain it like that… The thing is, surfing is awesome but it TOTALLY FREAKS ME OUT.
When it is my turn to take the board out, my heart rate spikes, my knuckles turn white, and I paddle around frantically trying to avoid the waves. The entire time I whisper things like, “Oh God, please! Please, keep me safe,” or “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!”
Sometimes, I get so scared that I paddle out as far as I can, past where the waves are breaking (and can potentially knock me off and scrape me against the coral until I bleed profusely and attract tiger sharks) so I can cry where the other surfers won’t hear me. By the time the morning is over I feel left out and 100% lame, because I’m the only one who didn’t catch a wave.
But, can I be honest with y’all? That panicky, stressed-out feeling isn’t something I’ve reserved only for surfboards in strange waters.
For much of my life, I’ve made the cautious choice, I’ve taken the predictable and steady route. I’ve stayed in the flat, calm waters I knew I could control.
Yet, inevitably waves have rolled themselves into my life—unexpected changes, unforeseen loss, unanticipated opportunities. Instead of riding the waves during those seasons, I gripped my paddle with determination and white knuckles, whispered panicked, fearful prayers and made a bee-line to whatever I thought might bring me comfort at the time (usually Anthropologie, cupcakes or red wine.)
Lately, David and I have been through one of those especially wavy seasons. (One might even say it was a “gnarly swell.”) We found ourselves in a position where we were processing potential job changes and possibly even moving cities. We were forced to put some of our biggest dreams on the table—things we felt were core to our identity—and surrender them completely to God’s plan.
We were in uncharted waters and we had two choices: we could either hold desperately to safety and comfort or we could let go, trust God and ride the waves.
Thankfully, we let go.
However imperfectly, we locked eyes with Christ, dove deep into His Word and asked friends to come alongside us as we navigated the surf the best we knew how. It was exhilarating and messy and completely peaceful at the same time.
Today, I’m still not 100% sure where we are headed. I wouldn’t even say things are completely “under control.”
And, you know what? I’m okay with that.
I’ve learned that following Christ, especially at the edge of the wave, where things are uncertain, is actually one of the most freeing, joyful places you can be.
When we are weak and out of control, His strength is magnified. We tangibly experience our need for God and understand our deeply independent relationship with the Creator a bit more clearly in those situations.
There are countless verses in Scripture that prove this point (2 Corinthians 12:10, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 46, etc.) but one of my favorite illustrations is one my dear friend, Cari Trotter, shared with me as David and I were smack in the middle of our uncertain season.
(I hope you’ll allow me to mix metaphors for just a hot minute…)
Lindsey Vonn won is another gorgeous blonde who won the gold medal in downhill skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics. (My friend Cari LOVES the Olympics.) She remembers watching with baited breath as Lindsey zigged and zagged rapidly down the mountain. But even more clearly, Cari remembers the words the announcer yelled through the TV as Lindsey made her way toward a gold metal:
“She’s almost out of control…” he shouted.
“…but right where she needs to be!”
I love what Ruth Haley Barton writes in her book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, “The Spirit of God moves us from behaviors motivated by fear and self-protection to trust and abandonment to God; from selfishness and self-absorption to freely offering the gifts of the authentic self; from the ego’s desperate attempts to control the outcomes of our lives to an ability to give ourselves over to the will of God which is often the foolishness of this world.”
The last day David and I were in Hawaii, I finally got brave enough to position myself in the wake of a rolling wave. To my surprise, I caught it and I rode it all the way in! No blood, no sharks, not even water in my nose.
It was absolutely exhilarating! I felt uninhibited but perfectly safe as I floated on a mighty swell of water that our God created with the gravity of the moon (what?!) just for me to enjoy at precisely that moment. Blows my mind when I really think about it.
Dear friend, my prayer for both of us is this: That we would rid ourselves of the need to control or predict our lives, and instead be courageous women who RIDE THE FREAKING WAVES!