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When I was seven, there were many things I did not know how to do. I could not fry an egg, shoot a basketball, or divide 100 by 5. I was not embarrassed by this at all since I saw it as my natural condition as a child to still have much to learn. So, I threw myself into acquiring new skills. Now I can do all of those things, and more.
At some point in my 20s the world began to choke out my beginner’s attitude. Once I found a job I was good at, I did not have to become good at anything else. My friends and I settled into a routine of practicing only the sports and activities we performed well at. Even in my spiritual life things started to feel stale. What happened, Lord, to the abundant life You want to give me?
In my prayer, I felt His answer. I could not grow further because I had been conditioned to fear the embarrassment of being a beginner, and to think I knew it all already! To remedy this, I decided to try one of the most potentially embarrassing activities I could think of – surfing.
I have never been great with activities that require balance. I swapped my snowboard for skis after dozens of wipeouts on the bunny hill, and the skateboard I got for Christmas when I was 11 has been collecting dust since I was 12. Surely surfing would not come naturally to me.
Sure enough, all the confidence I gained on the solid ground of the on-beach demonstration vanished as soon as I tried to ride my first real wave. The instructor pushed me into the very modest swell and yelled “Pop up!” and within one second, I was flying headfirst into the water.
“You looked down. Keep your eyes up. You’ll get ’em next time!” The instructor chose his most reassuring tone. I did not get ’em next time, or the time after that, or the five times after that. As I continued to wipe out, I grew more embarrassed and more frustrated. This was not fun. I wanted to quit, but a small voice inside told me to keep going.
When I finally caught a wave, it only lasted about six seconds, but it felt like an eternity, and it felt like heaven. The Lord had prepared this for me and I never would have experienced it if I had not dropped my pride and tried something new. In all, I only managed to ride three waves in the entire lesson, but that was enough for me. I left the beach feeling a combination of exhaustion and bliss. While I probably would never become a great surfer, I would be back, and I would apply the day’s lessons to all aspects of my life.
Really, I know very little about what God wants to do in my life, about the things He’ll call me to in the future, but isn’t it better that way? More exciting? I’m embracing being a beginner with God, even if that means falling off the board a few times.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.