I’m trying new things… or at least trying to try new things.
Often times I let the fear of not being good at a new thing keep me from doing that new thing, but I’m realizing more and more that the fear is less about my capability and more about what other people think. Like with anything in life, when you start something, you probably won’t be excellent at it right off the bat, but it you keep at it, little by little, over time you find that you can do it, and then one day you find you can do it well, and then one day… most excellent.
I’m tired of living my life in fear of what other people think… “is so and so proud of me?” (probably not, they hate tattoos), “am I working the right job?” (probably not, I should make more money), “will I be made fun of?” (most definitely)… but living in the what-ifs of other people’s thoughts is no place to live… it’s not living at all, it’s functioning at best.
At thirty-one years old I’m facing some fears. One of my fears is also one of the things I love the most in life… the ocean. Moving to California and living a block from the ocean, I’ve realized very quickly that you can’t have surfed on your dad’s longboard on the east coast 12 years ago and then come out here and call yourself a surfer. The first day I took a board out to “refresh” my “skills,” I had my ass handed to me by the ocean. It’s intimidating being out there with people who’ve been at it their whole lives. But I’m tired of living in the wake of other people’s intimidation. And so I go out, as often as possible, and I get my ass kicked, sometimes I even get made fun of, but I know the only way to get better at it is to start being not so good at it, and then keep doing it.
I both love and am terrified of surfing. I get out in the water and I sing, I sing and I pray and I find myself having to trust God in a whole new way. I find myself having to choose to believe that He is in fact in control of the ocean and He’s got me. Sometimes I have to wonder if He does got me… west coast waves are different, they’re bigger to say the least, and my noodle arms are not in the habit of pushing and pulling against the ocean. I’ve been tossed and turned and held under for much longer than I am comfortable with. I’ve come up gasping for air only to have the next wave topple over me. My prayers go from “help me!” to “come on, man! give me a break… although not literally!” Ever heard the song Oceans? It’s a good one, look it up. I sing “as your love wave after wave crashes over me, crashes over me,” and it puts a whole new meaning to the song. “Thank you for loving me, God,” I say as I see a wave of love heading my way to crash over me, “could you please love me in a different way right now?” And then I get toppled.
Swirling around in the power of the wave I can only begin to imagine the power of God’s love for us. I’m rendered helpless by the ocean as it overtakes me. I think God’s love is like that. People talk about God’s love as if it’s fluffy and safe, I think it’s powerful and scary and totally unsafe… like a wave. But when you learn how to ride with the wave, you experience the goodness of lining up with something so powerful and scary and unsafe. I think when we truly experience God’s love it does render us helpless, it leaves us shocked that we could ever be loved the way that we are. I think God wants to jolt us into being rendered helpless every now and again, if for no other reason than for us to realize or to remember that there is nothing we can do to earn that love. Even the best surfers in the world get their asses handed to them by the ocean; they could never be could enough to master the ocean because it’s not their ocean, it’s God ocean. And likewise, we could never be good enough to earn God’s love because it’s not our love to earn, it’s His love to give. So we can’t master the ocean, but we can continually keep showing up, get in the water and learn how to line up with the ocean’s power for our good. Unsafe becomes a place of trust and awe and wonder.
I’m still a beginner, so I’m not the best, but I’m trying. I have good days and I have off days and they all matter because they all make up the process of getting to where I want to be. Some days are hard and I’m embarrassed, but much like with life or even my relationship with God, it’s not a reason to throw my hands up and say “I quit!” just because things didn’t go my way. And when I’m most honest, I feel like I don’t even deserve praise for trying as I’m currently experiencing a minor set back. Fear has crept in the last week after getting stuck in a large set and having my board slam down on my head (lesson learned: always cover your head). I’ve slowly crept back to the comfort zone of the shore, and I think that happens in life when things start to get uncomfortable, naturally we want to find what’s comfortable. I’ve spent the last week beating myself up about being in the comfort zone, but that does me no good. What might help is catching my breath in the comfort zone, taking the pressure off to think I even have to master something or do it well enough in a certain amount of time, and find the enjoyment for it again, which ultimately is what will draw me back into the water, the fact that I love it. But if I see it as another task to perform or master, constantly feeling not good enough, I will stay right on the shore lines where I don’t even want to be.
My enjoyment for Jesus is what draws me to Him, not the tasks I think I have to do for Him. And so it is with surfing, and the new things I am trying in life, the approaches I am taking to not live in fear.
Alongside surfing I’ve picked up the ukulele, given to me by the high schoolers I used to work with. I’m not the best at it, but I love it, and that is reason enough to keep doing it. I see videos of other people playing perfectly and it is almost enough to make me wonder “why bother” as I’m just not as good as them. But I do bother because I love it, no matter how good someone else is, and if I spend my time comparing, I become so self-focused that I lose enjoyment for what I love and the ability to appreciate someone else’s talent. Someone else’s success is not my failure, and so I can praise them for how great they are instead of trying to compete with them. When competition is removed you find camaraderie, and where there is camaraderie there is community.
This video was made right where I am at in life… trying. I haven’t mastered anything, but there are enough videos of people who’ve mastered things. I figured maybe just maybe, if the process really is that important, I should be more willing to let people into the process instead of showcasing my gifts once I’ve mastered them. I’m inviting you into the process, not just of my life, but of yours, and encouraging you to share your process with other people, if for no other reason than connecting, relating, and not being so alone. You don’t have to be onstage to be good enough… you are good enough right where you are at, in the process of becoming you were meant to be, which in some weird way is who you are now, but also who you are becoming (I don’t get how it all works, I just know you’re good enough now and God ain’t done with you yet). Don’t give up. And don’t be afraid to fail, I guarantee you it is part of the process.
“Fail forward,” a friend said to me this week and I liked that… and I did.
And I survived.