Last week I stumbled upon something beautiful. It was late afternoon and my head cold was starting to get the better of me. So I went down to Harvey Beach, here in Old Saybrook. I figured if I could sit for a while and look at some waves and feel the breeze I’d be able to face the rest of my day. It helped. What I didn’t count on was the teaching moment that trip offered.
I was sitting in my car with the windows down. There were two other cars in the lot, and a woman was walking her dog on the sand, but other than that I was alone and the beach was clear. I sat trying to breathe, hoping the cold medicine I took would kick in when another car pulled into the lot. A gentleman a little older than me got out of the car. He was wearing a dress shirt and slacks, having every appearance of just having finished his work day. He stood in the sun with his arms out – not quite a prayer stance, but a gesture of openness and release seemed obvious to me as an observer. After several minutes of checking the wind and feeling the sun, he made his way back to his car.
He opened the trunk, and looked at the water. Then he began pulling out equipment: a surf board, a harness, ropes, and a large para-sail. Part of the para-sail was filled with air, and he pulled out a bicycle pump to fill it. Several trips delivered all of these items to the beach and he went back into his car and closed the door. He emerged wearing a wet-suit; the guy who had completed his work day was now forgotten, it was now time to get out on the water. On the beach he flew his para-sail up in the air like a child does to get a kite to fly. After a few minutes more and what had taken an hour to prepare since he had first arrived he was up on his board being propelled by the para-sail, and I watched him weave back and forth for several laps before deciding it was now time for me to leave and get back to my day. Was my head a little clearer having watched all this happen?
I’ve been thinking of this episode for about a week now (as my head keeps clearing from my head cold!). Here was a person of considerable skill, investing his time and resources into something he loved, and not once did I see him check his watch or lose the smile on his face. He simply loved what he was doing and lost himself in doing it. Before you rush to the conclusion that we should have a para-sailing club at church (though that could be really fun!); what I witnessed revealed God already at work outside the building.
What are you passionate about? What do you have fun doing? What can you lose yourself in, and the time goes by without notice? Can you teach a skill to somebody or invite them to participate in it with you? Is there something you have desire to do or learn but haven’t? Who could show you how? Motivate you to learn? Mentor you in giving it a try? Where could we look to the needs around us and match up our gifts, experience and skill base and started networking things together. Frederick Buechner once wrote, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deepest hunger meet.” (Frederich Beuchner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. [San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1973], p. 119). Something new and exciting can happen when those two mesh. You never know – we might catch a breeze we could never harness before.
What if we stopped looking at church only as a tally of programs and attendance and instead looked at assets and relationships – what we could teach and what we could learn – all by sharing in partnership?
What might happen then?
Maybe then we could really sail.
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” (Galatians 5:13-14 – THE MESSAGE)