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Surfing with Spirit

From the June 2, 2014 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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To those unfamiliar with surfing, it may come as a surprise to learn that much of your time is spent sitting on your board in the water waiting—waiting for the next set of waves to come in. There are those days when the waves seem to roll in continuously one after another, and those sessions are never to be forgotten. But during one of those waiting periods, I found myself wanting to use the time more wisely. And it occurred to me that I could spend that time in prayer.

I have always found that prayer begins with turning to God and listening for His voice, for spontaneous and uplifting direction and inspiration. As I began to reach out to God, sitting on my surfboard in the ocean, I found myself being grateful for Christ Jesus, Mary Baker Eddy, and the prophets, whose lessons and inspirations are available to us today. I wanted to understand their lessons better, to become more familiar with the spiritual discipline they so clearly expressed.

Of course, I had none of my Christian Science literature with me, and so I had to rely on memory to recall passages from the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings that I could ponder. I started with the Lord’s Prayer with its spiritual sense from the Christian Science textbook (see Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 16–17). I could recall and ponder the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:3–17) and the Beatitudes from the Bible (see Matthew 5:1–12).

I was also especially grateful to discover that I could remember many of the hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal, especially the ones that were Mrs. Eddy’s poems set to music. And although I prayed with the 23rd Psalm, I felt compelled to modify it slightly. Instead of, “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (verse 2), I would say, “He leadeth me to good waves in safe waters.” A surfer’s prayer!

As I prayed with these passages, I came to appreciate the faculty of memory as an expression of divine Mind, and how valuable it is to commit passages of spiritual insight to memory so that they can be recalled and pondered no matter what we may be doing. At one point I decided to memorize the first paragraph of Mrs. Eddy’s answer to the question “What is man?” on page 475 of Science and Health.

She writes in part, “Man is not matter; … Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas; ….” Praying with these ideas helped clarify my thoughts about myself. I could also claim these spiritual truths for my family, for the other surfers out at the break, and any others in my experience.

During one of those waiting periods, I found myself wanting to use the time more wisely. 

At one point, after a number of less-than-satisfying experiences of either missing a perfectly good wave completely or wiping out, I decided to prepare myself for the next wave by identifying the key moves I needed in order to surf it better. I came up with an “FDR” (Forward-Down-Right) approach—lean forward, go down the wave, turn right on the break. I trained myself to recall this acronym as I took off on succeeding waves, and there was immediate improvement.

This experience came to mind some time later as I was pondering how I could better respond to certain personal interactions, specifically situations where I felt someone had offended me or disappointed me in some way. As I pondered this, I realized that although there is no formula for inspiration, I could go through a few basic and helpful prayer “moves.” 

Just as I did for my plan to improve my surfing, I was inspired to form an acronym—“FPL” for forgiveness, patience, and love. I trained myself to remember this acronym and to put these qualities into practice. Prepared with this spiritual discipline, I found I was better able to resist the temptation to be upset or condemn. I could forgive in the spirit of not indulging resentment against another individual. 

This freed me to take the next step, patience—patience with the other person, patience with myself. For me, that was the essential step to the final goal—love. I knew I had reached it when I no longer felt offended or disappointed, but found myself yielding fully to God’s plan. 

His plan, while uniquely expressed in each situation, was always the same: God wanted me to have nothing but love in my heart, love for myself as an idea that could never be offended, hurt, or disappointed—because God was always meeting my every need—and love for the other individual, who, as an idea of divine Love, could in reality never do anything unloving or thoughtless. This was my assignment, and as I performed it, interactions with others improved, and I found freedom.

This is just some of the spiritual progress that has come about through relying on what I’ve learned while surfing. As the Christ touches us and causes us to turn to our dear Father for guidance, we find Him leading us in unexpected ways, in just the language we can understand, and in just the context that best moves us closer to Him. Truly it can be said, “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea” (Psalms 93:4).

Rick Gaspard and his wife, Toni, live in Salem, Massachusetts.

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