Friday, September 26, 2008

Swimming for Shore

I’m planning a solo kayak trip next week. Four days of fasting and hanging out with GOD. I keep trying to talk myself out of it.
“You’re not ready.”
“You’re too busy.”
“You’re nuts.”
There’s a demonic pull at my heart and mind and body. I’m noticing that voice is resistant to change. It pulls at my strings to keep me from moving ahead into my destiny.
“Stay put.”
“It’s not worth the effort.”
“You can’t change. You don’t need to change.”
“You can just coast and medicate.”

I have an image in my mind of who I am becoming. It’s not that I don’t like who I am. I love who I am. (How could I love my neighbour as I love myself ? – if I don’t love myself – including those warts, flaws, demons and illusions) It’s just that I know that GOD has given me a gift (not a plan – just a gift) and I know that I’m not yet fully living out of that giftedness. Fears and confusions and doubts still bind me in many ways – they pull at me like a powerful undertow trying to suck me out to sea.

Thirty years ago I tried surfing. A Californian street kid invited me to come check out a remote beach he’d heard about on the east coast of Vava ulua (the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga). He was on a quest for the perfect wave. I was kicking around the planet trying to unlearn years of Scarbro social conditioning.

We swam way out to the reef that sent breakers towards towards the miles of idyllic palm lined beach. There was no one else anywhere in sight. We splashed out through the breakers to where the waves rolled heavy and round before the reef pushed them up. Each and every one had traveled across the Pacific to rise to this occasion of meeting their destiny on shore.

It was a beautiful balmy hot day - like it always is in the Kingdom. Surfer dude coaxed me onto his board and coached me on how to catch the waves. It was more like the waves were playing ball with me. They tossed me here and there and pitched me back into the water. I remember maybe a few seconds of catching on – catching the wave – wow – wonderful. I could see how it could be addicting. But after maybe a dozen short tries, Surfer boy decided to demonstrate. Effortlessly he caught a wave and rode it a good ways into the bay. Then, he dropped onto the board, paddled back out through the breakers, stood and caught another one.

I was treading water, watching him with each ride move further away. The surfing lesson had taken a chunk of energy out of me and I was getting tired of paddling in place so I started for shore. It was maybe three hundred yards away. No big deal. I was a strong swimmer from a lifetime of splashing through Ontario lakes.

The one thing I’d never encountered in an Ontario lake was a tide. As I started swimming I noticed that after every five or six strokes - the water I was in - was being pulled powerfully out to sea. It was like trying to go up the down escalator. It meant that every five or six strokes I was going nowhere – spending a lot of energy just to stay in one place. Then, the tide would pause and I’d make another five or six strokes of headway.

Measuring my progress against the distant point of the bay, I became dismayed to see that I’d been making almost no progress at all. And I wasn’t getting any stronger either.

A wave of fear went through me. I was being swept out to sea. My surfer buddy was now a speck in the distance - happily in a world of his own. Fear turned into defeat and my whole body felt suddenly exhausted.

“You weren’t ready for this.”
“You’ve bitten off more than you can chew this time.”
“You’ll never make it to shore.”

My future was on that shore. All of my hopes were now beyond my grasp. I was wrestling with forces beyond what mere muscle and youth could deal with. That dead rock in the sky that dogs the earth’s spin was pulling the carpet out from beneath me. The Man in the Moon’s smile – hidden behind the sunshine - was mocking me. Demon tides were pulling me back and away. I would drown inevitably into the ocean’s deep apathy. You can’t fight the tides. Those who try will succumb.

It was all crystal clear. As pure and clear as the blue waters that held me. I could see the coral on the bottom just a yard below my kicking feet.
“This life’s not such a drag is it?”
“No, I love it.”
“Then swim down and grab hold while the tide pulls.”
“YOU are my rock and my salvation.”

I duck dove and grabbed hold of the coral while the tide pulled. When it stopped pulling, I swam forward and up for a breath as the ocean sighed. Then, as She drew in her breath - sucking me in – I dove again and grabbed hold of a tooth. Repeating this process, over and over, - brought hope and with it - new energy.

Did I make it?
I’m telling you this story aren’t I?
Will I make it to that future beach where my future self waits in the sun?
Only if I keep finding those rocks to dive and hold on to. Those rocks are mostly people. You. You give me a reason to keep swimming.

I know you probably feel like I do some days – like the tide of apathy is too strong and you’re getting sucked out to sea.

But today I’ll be your rock. Tomorrow you be mine.
Today I’m starting on the pre-fast diet.
Next week I’ll sit on a rock by a deep Kawartha lake and listen for that voice that reminds me how to survive. When to just hold on and when to swim for shore.

If you think of me next week. Send me your prayers. In the sigh of the wind, I’ll be swept forward. Send your prayers for Carol swimming solo with David at home too please. Your prayers make such a big difference. They really do.

And please pray for Alana - traveling out by herself on another continent. Pray she doesn’t accept any invitations from Californian street kids.

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