Pastoral Perspectives

Ride The Wave

What tops the news for us today? The PSLE, O, N, and A-Level exams or the surge in Covid-19 cases? More so would the latter catch our attention, especially with seniors over 60 and children being advised to stay home as much as possible. “The number of Covid-19 cases here has risen faster than expected, but a high vaccination rate has prevented the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said” (ST, Sep 17).

Our health minister assures us that “what is important is . . . what percentage translates into ICU admissions and deaths, and whether we can get our healthcare protocols updated and refreshed in time, moving more people to home recovery, and then we can ride the wave.” We should be glad that new measures have been announced, such as allowing more to recover at home. This should ease the strain on our frontline workers. Life goes on and if our daily routines are dependent on the number of Covid-19 cases, we will be paralysed by fear. The question, then, is this: How can we ride the wave?

I like the term “to ride the wave”. This is a surfing term. Surfers paddle out to catch waves. They wait for a good, high, strong wave, and then surf (ride) it to shore. When you ride a wave, it’s not your power propelling you, but the strength of the natural phenomenon. So, to ride a wave is to go with something that is already happening. The waves beneath the surfboard can threaten and overwhelm us, causing us to lose our balance and lose sight of what is before us.

If we apply this image as a metaphor for our lives, one such wave is the current pandemic. Covid-19 has taken the lives of many people. Such a wave can be paralysing—causing us to shut down. We are paralysed even though we know that many other things around us and in our culture are profoundly broken at this moment in history. We would rather watch others from the shore than get on the surfboard and ride the wave.

Using the same metaphor, we can say that there are three kinds of people: those who make waves, those who ride waves, and those who sit on the beach and watch. Life is an ocean, and we meet it at its pounding surf. The waves will never stop. Eventually they will overwhelm us, and we will succumb to their relentless pounding. Our choice is between riding the waves for as long as we can, or floundering against the might of the ocean. Consider the difference between these two images:

           OR                

We are the ones called to get in the water and ride with God through this pandemic. We are the ones called to find ways to bring transformation possibilities to the world. And we are the ones called to believe that “with God, all things are possible”. After all, we have already proven to be a resilient people—a people who have found ways to be “church” at such a time as this. The resilience of a people is greatly framed by their ability to lean into these “in between spaces”—maintaining the balance beneath our surfboards, ready to pivot and rise—as we wait and prepare to join God on the journey.

Oswald Chambers says: “The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer, produces in the surfer the super joy of going clean through it.” He cites Romans 8:37, which says that we are more than conquerors in Jesus. In addition, Exodus 14:14 says that God fights for us. Sometimes He wants us to simply be still and let the current have its way with us. Speaking of the waves of life, He gently whispers, “Stop fighting and instead learn to ride them. Let them take you where I want you to go. Lie in the boat and ride it out with Me. Through Me, you can experience peace and even joy in tribulation.”

In my opinion, our fear of failure often overcomes our desire to ride the wave of the Spirit. Although everyone wants to ride the wave, fear and self-centredness often wins the day. 

Embrace God’s dream . . . Especially if it seems crazy.

Listen to God’s Word . . . Forget what you think you know.

Don’t try to explain it . . . Enjoy it.

Our God is the Master of the ocean of our lives. He sends the Holy Spirit to encourage and strengthen us to be professional wave riders, who expect life’s waves to keep coming. When large waves roll in, we can therefore position ourselves in the palm of God’s hand, knowing that the ride to shore will be an adventure that will not destroy us but improve our surfing skills—that is, our ability to live the abundant life.


Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident Missionary to SQ)

October 10, 2021