Every year towards the end of summer, I have one thing on my mind: Shark Week. Well, that’s not totally true, particularly now that we’re starting this church plant (somewhat thought consuming!), but you probably get the point. For many Shark Week marks not simply the close of summer, but also perhaps its zenith.
And for those who do actually anticipate the new week, they can almost always be confronted with the disappointment of re-runs and less than spectacular material. While this year kicked off with a mock-u-mentary (that wasn’t even subtlely revealed to be fake until the end of it) on the pre-historic Megalodon, it seems to have let me down far less than other recent Shark Week’s.
I love to hear the stories of shark attack survivors. Those are always my favorites. I’m not there to see the un-cut material, but I really do think Discovery does a good job with letting people mention God or Jesus. There is almost always a snippet of a survivor giving praise to God the Father or the Son (still waiting for a Holy Spirit “shout out” but that may come…). In a previous season, one story actually ended with Romans 8:28 being quoted after the wife had been killed by a Tiger Shark. This year was no different.
One South African lad of only 15 years experienced the wrath of two Great White Sharks attacking him and his surfboard. Here is Animal Planet’s version. Unfortunately everyone abandoned the scene, so he was left to fend for himself. In his words, “Jesus, I need some help here…..” Suddenly a big wave came and carried the lad in.
Jesus’ “saving wave” was actually quite formative, for several years later, someone else surfing near him was attacked. Knowing what it was like to be left alone (and knowing what it was like to have been saved by a “third party”), he paddled over to rescue the other lad instead of swimming the other way.
What a great picture of how the gospel frees us from bitterness. That’s a natural reaction when folks let us down, or for this lad, when people leave you in the water to die at the teeth of two not so friendly White Sharks. We become especially bitter when people scatter at pivotal times in life. Instead of only giving us a new life freed from bitterness, the gospel grants us a new mission, and a new motivation to move forward in that mission. No longer bound by what people did/didn’t do for us (if they abandoned us) nor what people may do for us (praise or curse), we have a much fresher and lasting motivation. Freed from bitterness, and set free to serve.
Our bitter experiences can be redeemed and open the door for mission if we remember the truth of the gospel message:
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. II Tim 4:16-18