|The view that day.
When I’m afraid, I’ll cover myself with feathers and hide. (Said nobody, ever.)
A more realistic look at a fearful situation might look something like this. When I’m afraid I’ll act disinterested. I’ll get suddenly tired or sick. I may miss my alarm and wake up late. Oops.
This is how I feel every time I get a chance to go surfing.
I’m not afraid of the things that you might guess
Shark attacks, for example.
Sharp reef or rigid rock poundings.
No big deal.
Suffocating in seaweed.
Worse things could happen.
These are all valid concerns for anyone going for a dip in an ocean. But nothing terrifies me more than cold water.
That’s right, cold water.
I’m a wuss when it comes to cold water. Sharks, rocks, reef, stings, all of these things are probable but cold water is inevitable. It’s shocking. It takes your breath away.
It’s been the thing that has kept me from going out in the water for years. I have a board. I have an ocean. I have a solid surfer husband. But if the weather isn’t blazing hot and the water temp isn’t warm/ tropical/ bath-like…I stay on the beach, wishing I had the guts to get out there.
One time, I ended up at one of my favorite places on earth, on the beach in San Diego, on my birthday. It wasn’t planned. But it could have been the best birthday surprise that I can remember.
My husband and our friends were surfing a fun little break in California–while I stood on the beach watching. It was still the best day ever, even if I wasn’t in the water.
Then, I met a girl named Brownwyn.
Brownwyn was a senior at Point Loma, with a generous heart. She and her friends walked up out of the water and onto the beach and I asked her if she wanted to take a crazy person surfing.
We were strangers but I felt like we were friends because she could do something that I wanted to do someday and because they were smiling. Smiling is an instant qualifier for friendship in my book.
After we talked and I shared my irrational fear of cold water. She told me to come by her apartment sometime. She would let me borrow her wet suit and her board. She also told me she’d go with me.
They next day when the guys snuck away to go surfing I had them drop me off at her house. I had to do it. Or at least give it a try. I knocked on her door and hung out with her. She was one of the nicest people–her friends too. How weird was I?! But I was going to go for it. I put on her suit (she is about 5’4…I’m 5’11 so there may have been some pulled muscles just stretching it to fit me).
We hiked down the cliff, scaling the rocks with our boards, to the place where my husband and friends were in the water.
Once we reached the beach. She walked right in and paddled out.
I followed. Like a puppy trusting it’s owner, I walked into the unknown.
The surprise. I wasn’t cold.
The shock. I wasn’t fearful.
We paddled out in between sets like I’ve been doing it my whole life.
It seemed too easy.
Her confidence spilled over into my day and I caught a wave.
It was almost too much for me. And I started thinking about what the difference was between now and then–the then when I wouldn’t get in.
All of this time had passed and one little thing stood between me and those waves.
A wet suit was all I needed and a friend to guide me in….
I’m sure you’ve been afraid before. You may be fearing something now. That test. That text message. That weekend with your stepfather. The girl at school. The feelings of anxiety. The next game. The next opponent. The ridiculous assignment. The “what ifs” and the “why nots”. The unexpected. The unpredictable. That choice. The weird sound coming from your car when you drive it.
I’m sure you’ve decided that you’re better off avoiding the source of your fear (for me cold water) because who wants to see someone taking cover, running for your life, freezing to death, being made to look scared?
So we avoid, instead of doing the thing that is best for us.
Taking cover, getting protection, then moving forward.
We spend more time thinking about what we’ll do next weekend than we do planning our life today. That day, I planned my day by finding what I needed to take the next steps. In that moment, it was protection and friendship.
Where does our protection come from? For a surfer it comes in a seal like suit. Some wear hoodies an booties, for the extra icy temperatures.
For us, in our every day- just living life lives, protection looks like the Word of God. It looks like friends who get our fears but don’t let us drown in them. They look a lot like Brownwyn who calmly led me out to what she knew I could do once I had been prepared.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Psalm 91:4-6
Give God your fears.
Ask that he cover those fears with his feathers.
Rest under his wings away from the thoughts that hold you captive.
His unchanging faithfulness will guard you.
Nothing will cause fear in that place of protection.
And know that that place of protection goes with you, it’s not a secluded alone in your room place or hidden in a cave or stuck under a rock, that place of protection, like a wet suit of warmth, goes with you as you go, as you trust, as you dive into deep waters that yes, could harm your life and your limbs. But the fear will not keep you from taking those courageous steps that can bring you to life again. Go together, with a friend, with someone who also trusts in that same protection. He or she will be a reminder that can do this. You don’t have to be afraid.
God, I pray for those who feel sad or afraid right now. Give them a wet-suit. Give them a friend. Remind them that you’re right there with them, right now, right with.