Every summer, I wait and hope for our plans to cooperate with the weather and give us a day or two on the lake with (my parents’ beautiful) boat. We need the sunshine to keep us warm enough and the wind to stay mild enough that we can pull the tube behind the boat. The driver and the wind work together to make waves, and the riders delight at the efforts to stay on or fall in. On these rare and perfect days, I might be the biggest kid of all.
Riding waves is one of my favourite ways to play. I love the heat on my face, the wind in my hair, the cool spray of water, the anticipation of the bumps, and the thrill of holding on. I even love falling off. All the world’s worries fall away. Introducing my kids and then enjoying the rides with them is one of the best parts of parenting.
All this joy takes effort for me. I have to remind myself to loosen the muscles in my face and jaw and shoulders. To hold on with a loose and easy grip. To move with the waves instead of resisting them. I speak aloud the reminder that if I am tired, it is okay to let go and let the life jacket hold me up and the boat circle back. The kids delight in retelling the stories of my falling in.
This summer, I am trying to apply the same joy to riding the waves of life. The waves in my life have a lot of variety. Small ripples flow out from missing shoes when we are trying to leave the house. Intense choppy wakes follow teen attitudes and parental missteps, with a fairly quick settling period. Health challenges send a steady but unpredictable pattern of waves that can rock the boat significantly.
My (unrealistic and illogical) expectation for smooth waters often gets in the way of riding these waves with joy and grace. It takes the more effort to face these waves in life, but the skills are transferable. I remember, first, that waves are part of the experience of living, and can even be fun. I have a lot of experience, skills and support that can help me face these waves with grace. Relaxing into the experience works better than worrying and feeding anxieties.
As moments unfold in real-life rough waters, I can loosen my grip and consciously relax my body. I can speak aloud the things that are true. I can anticipate and appreciate the moments of rest between bumps. It is a miracle to marvel at the way the sun hits the water, even as the wind tosses me around and unsettles me.
Perhaps most importantly, I can hold on to letting go as a beautiful thing.
It is okay to be knocked over and in by a wave. I have survived each and every one that life has thrown at me so far. When I face one that threatens to do me in, I love a Creator who has conquered death. I can be assured that there is more life on the other side of any wave. And the falling is always just the opening or middle lines of a story about my rising.
Just like at the beach, there is no authorized panel of judges in my life waiting to give me a score or find me unworthy. There is only the memories and joy, middle aged aches and learning on the other side of the waves. It is not only okay, but in fact the point, to enjoy the ride.
When I lay down and let go into God, I have never met criticism – only tenderness and compassion. My experience of the divine has been constant presence in the crests and the valleys of the waves. From the tube behind the boat to my snowboard, and from parenting to the boardroom, I am learning that it is possible to ride waves with grace and joy.
May the waves be accompanied by sunshine as often as possible. May I look out for the boats and riders that may need me and trust they will watch for me. And may I find reverence, instead of resistance, for the power and gifts of the waves that come my way. Amen.