Each year, the Mavericks Surf Contest attracts the top surfers in the world. The competitors watch the Mavericks’ website until they see the words, “It’s on.” They then have 48 hours to get to the designated beach and compete for the prize money.
This year, the beach was Half Moon Bay in northern California. The surfers had to be towed out to the starting point because the breaking waves were so monstrous in size. Lifeguards zoomed around on jet skis to watch over the competitors.
Naturally, many spectators came to watch the excitement. Some bserved from the bluffs; others, from the shore. Many of those who stood and watched from the shore were injured when a couple of the giant waves made it all the way onto the beach and crashed upon them.
An insightful bishop from the American Methodist Episcopal Church observed with interest that no active surfer was hurt while in the middle of riding a board on those huge waves. It was only the passive spectators on the unmovable shore who were injured.
We are facing a wave of change in our communal life of faith. It seems logical that the safest way to weather that change would be to observe it from the unmovable shore of “We’ve always done it this way.”
But could it be that the safer, though perhaps scarier, place to thrive in this change is in the middle of the wave?
In Danielle Shroyer’s study guide for Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence, shewrites:
“Perhaps surfing is an apt metaphor for the kind of dual action required of us. Though we may choose our surfboard, our spot in the ocean, and the wave we take, we are not, in the end, able to control the movement of the ocean. We cannot determine the tide, or the length of the wave, or its intensity. It is our duty to ride it, and ride it well, in hopes that we arrive safely (and, with a little luck, gracefully) on the shore.” (Reader’s Guide to The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, Baker Publishing Group, 2008, p. 20)
Surf’s up. It’s on!