If a non-surfing friend or family member were to decide to join us in the line up one day, after a couple of hours they may indentify a real deficiency in a core skill that humans really should master: we aren’t very good communicators.
Think about a bunch of guys and gals bobbing in the line-up, scanning the horizon for peaks to pop up, and not a single word gets uttered. It’s like we’re a bunch of surf monks, we’ve taken a vow of silence. Oh, sure, there’s a few chatterboxes running off at the mouth. But that behavior seems to be frowned upon. What’s the deal? This is not a library, it’s a surf spot! But for most, nothing is said.
I wonder how it got that way. Our surfing forefathers tell tales of how it used to be, where cars would pull over if they saw boards on the roof, just to meet and talk and compare stories and notes on spots, swells, and various conditions. I suppose as a core group of surfers swell to throngs of ocean-going wave seekers, other people in the line-up are seen as threats, foes, all competing for the same precious limited resource: waves.
So there’s no talking allowed in the line-up, it seems. And when we do break the silence, it’s usually about protecting territory: “Got it!” “hey, going right!” “I’ve never seen you out here.” “Did you have to bring every person you’ve ever met out here today?”
I mean, how dysfunctional are we? Imagine what a psychologist would think of our behavior if it was viewed collectively. Hmm, let’s see: subject rarely ever talks, even in close proximity to others around him for extended periods of time. And when subject does speak, the words project hostility and defensiveness. Would this make a good dad, or a good child or a good spouse? Why would we then think it makes for good surfing?
God has something to say about this. In Proverbs 25:11, God says “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word aptly spoken.” In this one little verse, God is letting us know how words can come at just he right time and build up and heal.
So do you want to make a ripple? Begin your surf session asking God to give you words for the people that you’ll be with out there in the surf. Who knows all the fears, heartaches, wrong choices, and regrets that define the course of the real lives of surfers, the one’s you’ll sit next to, waiting for waves? Start with the small things, like a simple greeting, complimenting a nice ride, or asking about the shape they are riding. Maybe you think that’s small talk. But maybe it will ripple into something greater, opening the door to matters of the heart.
Words are never neutral. They will bring either a positive or negative charge. They can either draw a person toward God’s good news, or push them further back into their own small story of personal fulfillment. And as you are willing to let God speak through you, maybe you’ll have a new set of criteria for measuring the enjoyment of a surf session. It’s now not just about the waves you rode, but the conversations you’ve had. And may those small ripples move outward to result in a groundswell of changed lives.