I never knew that a moment would have such impact on the days ahead. One moment, three years ago, in New Zealnd, in the biggest surf I’d ever willingly thrown myself into, dug scars in my soul that wouldn’t come to light until now. It wasn’t just the event itself, it was the circumstances around it, too. Leaving NZ for a funeral of a 22 yr old friend, ending six months of a hard, isolated existence. The culmination flowing over in the moment I paddled out into double overhead surf at Piha.
Yesterday, as I was walking out the door to grab my board and head into pretty weak, small surf in Velzyland, it was as if something stood at the door and blocked my going. A fear unexplainable. I had experienced it the day before when I wanted to head out in bigger surf at the same spot.
After sitting down with it, the day at Piha came back to me. I thought surely there is no way that day is what is in play. The paddling against the incoming waves, being drawn closer and closer to jagged rocks and reef, the panicked fear this instilled, the sitting in the line-up watching waves too big for my level of expertise and cursing myself for getting myself into this situation. The only real thrilling moment was when I paddled into one of these giants and rode it clean and clear with more grace than I thought possible. And it was the only wave I rode that day.
But three years later, I had to revisit that day. The conversation in the water was a push and pull of my heart. I argued aloud with God about why he brought me to this country and why circumstances fell the way they did; feeling so abandoned. The fighting against currents as they dragged me closer to terrifying volcanic rock, cursing myself and God for getting me into this (when in fact it was I who paddled out). It wasn’t just the current and rocks, though. The whole six months felt like I had been on such a precipice.
So, yesterday, the idea of paddling back out into the ocean – with surf so non-threatening it was nearly absurd to be out there in the first place – I hit a resistance unknown. I never knew it was there.I had concluded in the midst of fearful circumstances years earlier that God was not o be trusted and, even more so, that I was not to be trusted either. After tossing this foolish notion out the window, I felt it in my gut and seem to hear God say, “go surf.”
The time out there wasn’t too eventful. A few waves that would have been easily ride-able if I had been more in practice and in better shape, was all that came my way. Even so, something bigger was happening. The fear was being washed away. The life I used to get from being out in the water; The conversation and communion that was so dear to me even just sitting on a board and feeling the water under me as I would wait for a set- it was there. After some failed attempts, I paddled back in, walked back to the house and showered, cooked steak on the grill and that was that.
This morning, though, there is the sense of a watershed, a crossing of a threshold. I get the sense that such a small action as an hour attempt at surfing and all that it stirred up, was the “reason” that I made the trip here to the North Shore in the first place. It is like a giant sigh. Whether I surf anymore while I am here – the waves don’t look to be all that big – is beside the point, gravy on the table.
It’s like this moment three years ago in NZ crippled me while revealing strength and fearlessness at the same time. I always have seen the strength and fearlessness part but felt like it was capsulated in a moment and not an underlying current of who I am.
And the words of John Gorka come to my head: “Cause this is not what I expected. I did not expect to feel this good. I always kept my heart protected, crossed my fingers and knocked on wood….All the rest is like gravy on the table…and I know it takes some time to understand the rules of behavior here in Gravyland.”
At the end of “Around the Bend” after he has forgiven Turner for dropping him, Jason says, “Get in the van.” Turner says, “I am not going back.” Jason says, “I’m not taking you back. I am gonna take you where you wanna go.” Seems when I face what I am afraid of most, it feels like going back, but it really is just the first steps toward where I want to go...