I walk about four miles when on a whim I decide to turn right and walk down the Manhattan Beach Pier. Something draws me deeper over the blue, out into the unknown and I relish the gusts blowing stronger away from the windbreak of plaster and stone. And then I see him, well, them actually. They float on either side of the pier, bobbing on waves, waiting, waiting on the ephemeral ecstasy of the next ride. Looking like sleek seals in a herd they cluster together south of the pier, where the ocean will take them down and away from barnacle encrusted pilings.
But he is on the other side of the pack, paddling alone on the north side of the pier. His quick splash on the water catches my eye. I notice he is wearing some sort of head gear and I stop to look closer. In addition to the black neoprene wetsuit he is wearing some sort of neoprene helmet. But it doesn’t seem to be attached, like a hood, as I see long straggly hair flowing out the back. The lone surfer rests his palm on the water, feeling the waves coming in and begins to slowly paddle, turning towards the shore, preparing. Shocked, I realize that not only does scraggly hair flow down his back but his front. His beard, grey, long and dripping, sticks to the front of his wetsuit. Ridiculously I think of Gandalf on a board. Or of Merlin waterskiing in that long ago watched Disney film, The Sword in the Stone. Even Harry wondered where Dumbledore went on holiday, perhaps here. As my thoughts trip along in this frivolous vein I am also aware of admiration growing. Quite frankly I’m impressed that he is still braving the icy cold Pacific to catch that wave.
He is almost right under me now, bending over the board, shifting his weight from side to side, preparing to race the curl when I notice something else off. I watch his legs trying to figure out why they seem unbalanced. Then it strikes me as if I am the one dancing in the surf and I have just been taken unawares by a rogue wave, filling my mouth and nostrils with brine. The lone surfer has only one leg. One leg, strong and lean, circles in the water. The other neoprene wrapped limb, a stump cut above the knee, rests glaring contrasted with the white of his board. How? How can he surf safely through the pilings, how can he surf at all with just one leg?
Entangled I study him, waiting with bated breath to see what will happen next. The water gently rises, announcing the arrival of the next set. Leaning flat over his board, the man begins to pump hard. At just the right moment, he leaps up, foot on the board, long leg bent at the knee, balancing with the stump doing its share of the work, and rides the crest of the wave, in and out, up and down, dancing a daring minuet with the pilings to emerge safely in the billowing surf.
In awe I long to simply take off my shoes for I know this is holy ground, a sacred moment, a gift. In quiet reverence I listen for the lesson and whisper, “If he can, then so can I.”
I finish circling the pier and walk the two and a half miles to the next. As I lean against the railing of the Hermosa Beach Pier I notice the dancers, bright orange and pink, circling each other in the sky. As they bow, dip and cavort seemingly unfettered, the kites beckon me to fly with them. To untether from the worries and the fears and all of the “buts” stopping me. Again I whisper, “If he can, then so can I.”
Sin is on my mind today. I’d rather not talk about it, it’s such a bummer of a subject but, sigh, it is what is on my mind. I struggle with the same tenacious sins and today I’m feeling like they have my face pressed to the mat and a ref is counting me out. If Christ has come to overcome sin how do I enter in to that? How do I go from cravenly, boringly, repeatedly, stubbornly sinning the same way over and over again to life? I want to lay these defects of character/brazenly rebellious deeds down to die this Lent and never pick them up again. Never. I am so tired of them and the law induced guilt that I feel a bit like Sméagol in the Lord of the Rings when he tells Gollum to “Leave now and never come back!" (If that reference went right over your head, do I have a movie for you.) I want to say, “leave now and never come back.” I think I needed a longer quiet time today.
Father, speak to me and forgive me. I am being so stubborn here and these sins are becoming my focus. I don’t want them to be my focus. I want You to be my focus.
Yes, yes, make Me your focus. When I am your focus these sins will fall away, like the dead things they are. You follow me, now.
Again I am too small to fill my sight large and still see. I am like the disciples and the Pharisees and all who were so large in their own eyes they blocked out the Son. When I am my focus, I block Him out. When sin is my focus, my wounded pride, so disappointed at perfection lost, shuts my ears to His voice. Oh to walk quickly into my Heavenly Papa’s room, mud caked and bloody, to climb onto His pristine lap and tell Him all about it. How I was wrong and why: to cry the tears and take any consequences and to promptly, openly ask for help. For it is this I am skipping, inviting Jesus into my sin. He took it on Himself at Calvary. Why would I think it would be foreign to Him now? Jesus is more intimately acquainted with my failings than I am. Is this how to enter into His life today, by inviting Him deeper into mine. Does He who makes all things new and clean and white again need my permission? Why do I forget or forgo this step? Because I’m terminally selfish and prideful. Because I still haven’t given up the desire of doing it on my own, of bringing Him something worthwhile I have crafted with my own hands. But my hands, gifted at so many things, were not created to shape a heart. Only One I know sees so clearly, touches so gently and molds so powerfully. And I am not He.
linking with Emily and other broken wanderers who are not lost