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Preparing for Chaos - Saint James Church

Preparing for Chaos

James has started a new series on surfing in chaos. I like that image of surfing on the crazy waves of life. Sometimes they are more like tidal waves and all but overwhelm us. In my mind, I see an image of a tiny surfer surrounded by a mountain of water that could pummel her at any moment. The scene fills me with terror, but the look on the surfer’s face is serene. She is living in the moment: relaxed, knees bent, arms out to balance as the board goes this way and that. The surfer survives by going with the motion of the wave and riding it out.

I’m not sure that describes me in my times of greatest trials. I suppose I’m more of a fighter. I like to think that I can somehow control the waves of life—tame them. And the bigger the problem, the more effort I put into finding a solution. I rarely let go and try to ride it out. But we all know what happens to surfers who fight the waves rather than moving with them. She or he gets smashed under and comes up battered and bruised, gasping for breath. Surfing is more about letting go, and maybe that is a better way to get through life’s challenges as well. We’ve all heard the phrase “let go and let God.” To survive the things that would destroy us, we must accept that we are powerless over some things and trust in God to get us through.

Of course, that is much easier said than done! But like many things, perhaps it is something we can practice and get better at. We don’t expect a first time surfer to paddle out into the biggest waves on the island and make it back safely to shore. It takes years of experience to be able to do that. Surfers train their minds and their muscles to develop the skill to survive those monster waves. I want to suggest that we can do the same thing to develop a faith hardy enough for tough times. I believe we can prepare ourselves for the chaos of life.

James gave the example of Noah as someone who was prepared for the tidal waves of life. Noah was so prepared that he built a boat to get through his challenging time! It’s easy to focus on the boat as the solution to his problem, but the boat was just a result of what the real key was—an intimate relationship with God. The Bible story describes how Noah and the God of the universe spent time together. Noah knew God—believed he existed, yes, but more importantly, had an ongoing relationship with that God. And it was that relationship that allowed Noah to say yes to God’s crazy request to build an ark. Noah trusted God. It was that trust that saved him, not the boat.

And so the question is, what are we doing right now to build a relationship with God so that we trust God? Because we have to trust God before we can let go and ride out life’s troubles. And we have to know God in order to trust Her/Him/It/God. Everyone thought Noah was nuts. And it is nuts to let go in the midst of chaos if you don’t trust that God is there for you whatever happens. We can only let go if we build a relationship with God first. And that takes time and effort—just like learning to surf. We need to look for God in nature and to listen for God in conversations. We need to dance with God in joy and to sing to God in praise. We need to thank God for each morning and for each meal. We need to open our Bibles and our minds to a reality that is bigger than the world that surrounds us. We need to ask: what would Jesus do and try to do it. We need to put God at the center of our lives and surround ourselves with people and things that help us connect with the Divine.

So if we want to be prepared for the big waves ahead, we need to work on our relationship with God today. Because the more time we spend with God, the more we experience God’s grace and gentle mercy and hope and strength. And the more we experience those things, the more we learn that God really is enough, that God really will get us through, that we really can let go and let God. And once we reach that conclusion, like a master surfer we can ride out life’s biggest challenges relaxed and confident rather than drowning and afraid. And we too can live in the moment and trust that all will be well.

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