Beautiful waves rolled down the point as I slipped into my wetsuit this morning. The air was fresh and the Easter crowds had thinned, leaving only a few of us to brave the South Australian surf break. We paddled out and chatted to the travellers, sharing stories of surf and also recent shark sightings, one only the day prior at a spot where 20 surfers were chased out of the water.
The same spot had a death several years earlier, so if someone see’s something, you listen. Great Whites are notorious on this coastline, one of the largest populations in the world, and have been measured at up to 7 meters, or 21 feet.
Interestingly enough, during my surf this morning two surfers spotted a large shadow in a wave. So calmly everyone paddled in to the rocks and got straight out of the water. Occasionally people will still stay out, because if a shark is feeding, there’s no way you’d see it...
So why do we do it? Week after week, year after year, knowing full well that every surf might be the last thing we ever do?
Some call us ‘crazy’ or ‘fearless’ but neither are true.
It’s not like we don’t think about them, we do. In fact sharks are on my mind every surf. I’ve had many experiences where someone will tell me they saw a shark right near me, or I’ll be surfing for a couple of hours and see a Great White launch out of the water, only a few hundred meters away.... they scare the daylights out of me!
So why then? If something scares me so much, why do I take the risk?
I can’t speak for every surfer, but I can speak for myself and my friends... we don’t let fear control our every decision.
We’re more afraid of not living life to the fullest
When I meet people for the first time, and they find out I’m a surfer, they almost always bring up the fact that they would like to surf... but you know... sharks.... often the one movie they quote is Jaws, which portrayed sharks as motivated killers.
Interestingly enough, Rodney Fox, the man whose shark attack on our coastline inspired the movie, is one of the biggest advocates for protecting sharks, and he even has a business now that takes people to dive with them!
One statistic I will share with these people who feel to pass on their fear to me is this; I ask them “In the year 2000, how many people do you think died from shark attacks all over the world?” They say, “I don’t know, maybe one hundred?” Then I reply, “No, ten. Now guess how many people died from coconuts falling out of trees? One hundred and fifty! So you have fifteen times more chance of dying from a coconut than a shark!”.
Of course more people sit under palm trees than sit in the water, but that’s beside the point!
Fear is contagious, fear is a controlling master... but most of all, fear enslaves us.
But sharks aren’t really what we’re afraid of....
It’s the thought of losing a limb or two... that’s what we’re afraid of.
And it’s the dying part.
As surfers on this rugged coastline, we’ve dealt with the fact that we could die. It’s the most inevitable fact of life, but without dealing with this fear we can never truly live. Fear will ensnare us, and keep us from experiencing new and wonderful things.
We focus on the beauty of the ocean, the smooth water under our boards, the dolphins swimming around us and launching airs out of the waves... the seals bobbing their heads up to say ‘hello’... there’s so much beauty to be enjoyed when we put fear into it’s rightful place.
As a believer here’s how I look at fear
In Genesis chapters one and two, we learn that humans were given dominion over the fish of the sea. I trust that promise and declare that sharks wont touch us as I pray before my surf. I take dominion over them. Then like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the book of Daniel when faced with the threat of death for their nonconformity, they declared that God would save them, but even if He didn’t, they still wouldn’t bow down or be intimidated.
Then there’s Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 3-4), they were the only ones allowed to enter the promised land, because they were the only two who trusted God was more powerful than their enemies. They didn’t let fear own them.
Fear seems to be the very thing preventing us from achieving the things God has called us to.
So my challenge for you is this... what amazing and beautiful things are you missing out on because of your fear?
Luke Sparrow is the Press Service International senior writer for Christian Today