I went out surfing one day after work, just me and my lonesome. I got to the ocean, saw all the pro surfers shredding the waves in the jetty, and paddled out to the amateur hour section. It fit my bill just right, actually if we’re being completely honest, even that was a little rough for me. I claim no athletic ability in this field. After paddling out I noticed a younger surfer sitting on his board near me. I thought nothing of it after being frequently out-surfed by 12 and 13 year olds. A while passed and there were no waves, so I decided to paddle in a bit and catch them closer to shore, the young surfer was right behind me. I paddled to the right, boom he paddled to the right. So I turned to him and said, “What, the ocean isn’t big enough for you or something like that? You got a problem? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya?” Or a blue fish said that in a different ocean, I can’t remember.
Anyway, I realized that I was still too far out and started to paddle way in. As I’m paddling, I keep hearing this small sound, like a sentence over and over and so I tune in to hear what it is. This young boy was saying over and over, “I can’t”. I looked back quickly and I will probably remember this scene for a while. The little boy, completely alone and surrounded by nothing but water, was paddling as hard as he could, quietly adding his own tears to the water, whispering, “I can’t, I can’t”. My heart absolutely shattered. I stopped paddling, turned back and asked him what his name was and told him that we would paddle the rest of the way together. I wasn’t going to leave him. Turns out he was 10 years old and his mom’s friend who took him was out with the rest of the awesome surfers. Well, we paddled together for a little while and then caught some waves together. Then unbeknownst to me he rode one all the way in. So I looked around to find him and there on the shore I saw his little frame jumping up and down waving his arm in the air. I smiled, waved back, and kept surfing.
This scene stuck with me for a while. At first I was confused why I couldn’t stop thinking about it and my heart wouldn’t stop aching. Then it hit me, this is the story of evangelism for me. Let’s say the ocean is a symbol for the world we live in and the shore is a symbol of Salvation in Christ. Is it coming together now? I would say that we are called to jump into this turbulent world, face terrors, and be smashed around a bit. God never promised an easy life. But in the midst of living this life, of walking through this world I think it would be incredibly selfish of us to simply focus on ourselves, to try to find meaning for our lives in the thrill of riding wave after wave of happiness. We are meant to care about the people around us, to care about this world as whole. We as Christians are meant to reach out to those who are lost in this world, those who are paddling as hard as they can and yet look to the finish line and think, “I can’t”. Because it is in those moments when we ourselves heard the words, “But God can.” When people lose hope, we have the chance to come alongside them and live life for a while by their side and say, “look there, hope is right in front of you.” And every once in a while God blesses us with the opportunity to see those that we walked alongside standing on the shore waving back to us, knowing that they are safe in the knowledge of who they are and who they are not.