This morning before I paddled out into the ocean, two friends gave me a warning, “There are man-o-war in the water. Be careful.”
“Wow! Really? I’ve never seen one in real life.”
“It was in two feet of water. That’s why I got out,” she said with drooped shoulders leaning against her board.
Without any other thought except I really wanted to surf I said, “God, please protect me. Keep me safe. In Jesus name.” I don’t know why I prayed the prayer out loud but after my short, somewhat flippant prayer I hit the water.
As I paddled to the tiny break, I wondered if God would protect me. But what about the rest of the surfers? I forgot to pray for them. Didn’t I care about anyone but me?
What a kook, I imagined God thinking. My complete lack of concern for my fellow man coupled with my nonchalant attitude, God was surely unimpressed. Did I mention it was Sunday morning and I was skipping church?
I thought, I deserve to get totally hammered by a jellyfish right now.
That’s just it –if I were God –people would get what they deserved. I mean how else would we learn to be thoughtful and loving? Still… there was a quiet voice, a knowing and thankfulness in my soul that God wasn’t like me.
The God I’ve seen at work in my life wasn’t this far-off judge waiting to set me straight with a jellyfish sting. Instead Jesus has been an up-close, arm on my shoulder kind of God. His sense of humor much bigger than his expectations of my goodness.
When I royally blow it and end up face first in the sand, Jesus meets me there. As shame stands on my back holding me down, Jesus’s strong arm reaches out to me –his eyes full of compassion. He even gets mad at my enemies, the bullies of self-hatred and guilt that always say I’m not good enough. That God doesn’t have time for me. That I should be doing more important stuff like giving all I have to the poor. That I should be more perfect on the inside and outside.
But when I spend a few quiet moments with Jesus, he most wants to remind me that I’m completely loved. In spite of my selfishness and my failures. When I enjoy creation, frolicking like a child in the ocean, I sense his pleasure.
When I come up short which is always, his grace and mercy bridge the gap. My tiny offering –my flippant prayer, my small love –He makes it big. That’s the miracle.
A tiny faith moves mountains. A tiny seed grows huge trees. A tiny gift feeds a thousand. And when I remember this –I’m so full of thankfulness –I can love more, forgive better, and give bigger. I didn’t get stung by a jellyfish this day but for the record I’ve been stung before. It hurts.