We spent yesterday floundering on surfboards. Over the last few years we’ve taken lessons and even surfed a few waves with the help of instructors and on boards the size of small aircraft carriers. So yesterday we rented boards and took off on our own for a beach with dependable but small waves. It was a day of laughter and giggling, swallowing more salt water than is recommended, with a few waves surfed in the prone position. The really good surfers we met were laid back and kind hearted, and, while finding us comically entertaining, were nothing but encouraging. We asked them about the beach. They welcomed us, pointed out where beginners might be most comfortable. Warned us against the part of the beach that was more dangerous. They made us feel comfortable in a strange environment that was clearly “their” beach.
In a sense it was a return to the childhood experience of learning to ride a bike. It was a bit scary and wobbly, but as long as dad or mom was running along beside giving us a gentle push to get us started and keeping us from falling too hard it was OK. Then we went out on our own for the first time of testing all the skills of balance and movement needed to stay upright and go somewhere. It took some practice and a few skinned knees to get it down.
Too often we older folks forget both the excitement and difficulty of learning something new like that, so I heartily recommend taking up the surfboard for every senior citizen. In fact, every landlubber Christian should do the same because it will also teach you something about what it is to be new to our faith. How, you ask, can you get from surfing to the pew? Isn’t it obvious?
Someone new coming in the door on a Sunday morning looking for something but not quite sure what that something is, is about to get into the water and take up religious surfing. It takes courage to even begin. Will there be knowledgeable and skilled instructors ready to outfit her with the basics needed to get started? Will they stand beside him helping him get up and going and not letting him fall too hard? When she is ready to go it alone will there be veteran Christians providing welcome and encouragement? Will he be subtly ridiculed for dressing wrong, not being the right age, speaking a different language, demonstrating comic ineptness at the way we do things here? Worst of all, will she encounter a bunch of Christians who have sat around on the beach guzzling liturgical beer for so long that they no longer know how to surf, but who are exceedingly proud, confident in their ignorance, and more than willing to offer an abundance of advice, snide and otherwise?
Think about it.