Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Was Born To Surf

Last night Leland and I watched the movie, Soul Surfer. If you haven't watched it, you should. It is the true story of surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attack. It is also about her journey through the tragedy; adjusting to new limitations, her change in perspective, and her return to competitive surfing.

Bethany was on the rise as a competitive surfer, having been sponsored by Rip Curl shortly before her tragic accident. She was living an idyllic life with a strong, faith-based, loving family, a best friend to share her surfing passion with, and the promise of a brilliant future.

I wanted to be her as I watched this story begin to unfold. Who wouldn't?

Then that shark came out of nowhere and took off her left arm, along with her hopes and dreams. But like any passionate dreamer, Bethany was thinking only of getting back into the water as she lay in a hospital bed, in pain, recovering from a horrible trauma.

Once out of the hospital, watching Bethany's return home and the limitations she was facing, the frustration, the pain on her brothers' and parents' faces as they watched her, brought tears to my eyes. And the paparazzi camped in the front yard, like buzzards circling their next meal, made me angry.

With determination born of faith--I can do all this through Him who gives me strength--she adapted to life with one arm. She learned to surf again, her family cheering her on along the way. Then she decided to go to the next level; to compete.

Bethany's dreams of competitive surfing came crashing down around her as she gave in to the heart-breaking frustration of trying to regain her pre-injury abilities. Faith withered under the strain of the seemingly impossible.  

She gave up.

She gave her boards away to some of her younger fans and decided to go with her church youth group on a mission trip to Thailand, following the tsunami of 2004. There, her perspective changed. The suffering, wreckage, and hopelessness of the aftermath of the tsunami brought her out of her own suffering and into the lives of those she went to serve.

Back home with a renewal of faith, she decided to surf again, and to prepare for a national competition. Her father rigged her board with a hand hold that would allow her to duck dive through the surf and pop out on the back side without being pummeled by the waves. She trained, and trained hard, because, as she said, I was born to surf.

In that competition, God gave her the wave of her dreams as the entire lineup of surfers sat in a calm sea and the clock ticked off the last seconds of the heat. She came close to winning that competition, and would have if she had only stood on her board one second sooner, before the horn blew signaling the end of the heat. She placed fifth because that dream ride didn't count.

Not to Bethany. It counted.

How quickly I lose my grip on faith and give up on my dreams. Thank you, Bethany, for sharing your story, and for encouraging dreamers everywhere. You are beyond inspirational--a true champion of the faith.

                            Bethany Hamilton at the Champions of the Faith Awards, Atlanta, GA

What were you born to do? Have you given up on your dream? What can you do to bring it back to life?

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