Note: the following is an entry from a devotional I have been working on.
Warm up: Read Psalm 16
Every morning I would throw back the curtains from my hotel room and stare at the ocean, in hopes of good surf. Maybe today would be the day I’d see the glassy formations about head high, curling and gently peeling down the line. Even a mediocre surfer like myself could do something with waves that good!
I grew up about as far away from the ocean as one could get—South Dakota—which might help explain, in part, my fascination. Like most places on the planet, remnants of surf culture drifted into my hometown—skateboards, shirts with wave emblems and cool sayings like “stoked.”
I remember visiting Santa Barbara, Calif., when I was 14, and seeing a group of surfers clad in dark wetsuits with tanned faces and sun-bleached hair. They held an air of conquering, like gladiators fresh from the Coliseum. Eventually, I finally did learn to surf, but living in Colorado, I don’t get to go often, save for the occasional river break. But river waves are not ocean waves.
That’s why I lay in waiting each morning in my Florida hotel room, where I was attending a conference for several weeks. The beachbreaks of Daytona Beach weren’t exactly the Pipeline of Hawaii, but occasionally decent waves did come.
Each morning, I continued my ritual: looking out the window, checking the reports on my phone. Throughout the day, I often couldn’t help staring at the ocean. The possibility of good surf brought an excitement and anticipation to each day that is hard to describe, even beyond the dopamine or endorphins. It’s similar waiting for the powder to fall during ski season.
As I pondered it more, I wondered, do I often come to the Lord with the same anticipation? Do I look forward to spending time with him, or do I merely endure it like another menial task to get through? As it says in Psalm 16:
“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’
Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
These are some great promises, especially experiencing “joy in (his) presence.”
Sadly, I don’t always expect these things when I seek God. I often wake up to read the Bible and pray and I approach it more like I’m punching the clock at a menial job. Other days, I’m distracted by my to do list, or even social media. Hey, I didn’t realize so-and-so went to the farmer’s market yesterday! Or that what’s-her-name is vacationing in Panama!
Even with the best of intentions the time slips away.
I know spending time with the Lord are is critical to develop my relationship with him and certainly a number of days my heart does show up, but why do I often approach him with so little anticipation? Therein lies the problem. Do we really believe what verse 2 says, that “apart from the Lord I have no good thing?” There may be many blessings in our lives (and most likely hard things, too) but do we believe they are blessings from God? Or do we subtly believe that we somehow arranged for them ourselves? How is that we miss that He is actually the highest blessing?
In verse 4, the Psalm sheds light on another reason our hearts might be so dry.
“The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. “
The term “libations of blood” refers to the worship of pagan deities. What other “gods” are we bowing down? These will easily kill our joy and stifle our longing for him.
This Psalm is a call to cast aside lesser idols and distractions, and go for the joy of his presence, which is like a thundering breaker, pristine and glassy, pulling us in the barrel of his love. A start would be to put down our to-do list, take our eyes away from our distractions and spend some time with the Lord—through reading his word, prayer and worship. I like it best early in the morning, when my heart is freshest.
Certainly there is a discipline aspect of seeking the Lord. Some days, when our mind and desires drifts, we need to ask the Lord for what he says in Jeremiah, “I will give them a heart to know me…(24:7a)” Clinging to such verses, we may soon find that this duty becomes a delight and once again we look forward to our times with the Lord—more than anything else.
He is a constant source of joy that we can always count on.
Not always so with waves. Surfing is a finicky sport. The waves seldom form as good as one would hope. The wind direction, types of swell and a great many other complex factors make it difficult for the waves to actually be good. Even the North Shore of Hawaii can go flat for weeks at a time. Florida is much, much lower on the surfing hierarchy—in fact, most surfers consider it a better fishing destination than for surfing.
When the waves do come, I look forward to enjoying them. After all, God is the one who created them in the first place. But I know there is a deeper joy I can anticipate each day that doesn’t depend upon swell.