Fins to the left, fins to the right.
Sitting at a Dana Point beach the other day with my friend, I was annoyed by the buzzing of a helicopter overhead. Eventually, I was cognizant enough to think 'why in the world doesn't that helicopter go on its way?' Finding the answer required walking further onto the beach to see what was happening. Of course, I then spotted a rescue boat and more activity-'twas a shark sighting. Turns out ~ a 10 -12 foot Great White.1 Yikes.
I have lived in San Clemente, a Southern California beach town for 17 years now, and there have never been as many sightings and events as this year. In case you don't know, swimming or surfing with Great White sharks may be very hazardous to your well-being! Which made me stop and think - what sharks are around us-mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually speaking? What things are hazardous that we do not take note of and do something about?
Like these recent sharks lurking off our coastlines, just beneath the surface ...honestly, we allow things to swim around us, and have some things we have buried inside of us-
~past memories that cause guilt or shame
~bitterness because of hurt feelings and betrayal
~un-forgiveness that we wear like a monkey on our backs.
For instance, today I met with a precious young man, just 21, who I had the privilege of baptizing in the Pacific Ocean five years ago. A junior in college, he is walking with God and longs to live close to his heart. He has had a darling girlfriend for about six months, but is having a hard time forgiving her for 'giving herself away' before she knew God, and well before she knew him. He feels ripped off, you see? Though tempted and close to blowing it many times, he has 'saved himself' for marriage, for his someday wife. I get that, but I explained to him that he is holding her hostage-and what's more, himself hostage-by carrying around un-forgiveness.
Un-forgiveness - a shark that is hazardous to one's spiritual well-being. I get it, I've got some. You get it, you've probably got some too.
Could we dig out the un-forgiveness we carry and get rid of the shark?
Jesus: But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.2
On a totally different note, we've got other seemingly less deadly fin-swimmers around us. "Can't you feel 'em circlin', honey? Can't you feel 'em swimmin' around?"3
Let's just call them distractions. Daily we allow them to pull us from what God calls us to. So many of us want to meet with God-pray, read his Word, just be with him. But we're too busy, it turns out. Shark. Cell-phones were the invention of the evil one, I think. Oh, wait, we have the freedom to lay them aside.
"let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with endurance the race set out for us."4 Two things: (1) we can't run a race with endurance unless we train. Gotta' train ourselves in prayer and scripture...really. That means figuring out a way to deal with the distractions that pull us from those things.
(2) Do you have children that you hope will want to spend time with you?
Well, your Heavenly Father wants to spend time with you, Friend. He likes your company, and he sure hopes you want to sit a while in his company.
Distractions = sharks in the water
Final thought from a fellow that I think was a brilliant, brilliant man. Dallas Willard said this to a young man, "ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life". The young pastor, whose phone was ringing, felt he needed to get back to his work, said, 'okay, got that one down-what else?' Willard quietly repeated himself, 'that's all,
ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.'5
Hurry ... a shark?
2 - Matthew 6.15, NLT
3 - "Fins" by Jimmy Buffett
4 - Hebrews 12.2