The Common Good

Walk On The Ocean: Rob Bell, Day 2

The author, watching the surf in Laguna Beach, Calif., on Wednesday. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

I was standing there on the shore, jeans rolled up, my ankles in the surf.

It was day two of the Rob Bell event and people were surfing.

Yes, surfing.

Rob brings in a couple of surfing instructors and, if you want to, you can rent a board and take a lesson. It's a good time. I watched a lot of people surf for the first time as I stood on the shore ...

                   watching ...


People were working it out. It was inspirational to watch them process and ask questions, to find out what the next steps are for them in their work, to play, and connect. As I listened I found myself wanting to get in the water, to find some way to connect and change and move and, and, and...

But that's not where I am.

Or one could say that's exctly where I am. I'm working. I'm doing the next thing. As people joke here, "someone will quit their job before this is over."

Sure. I get it. Inspirational. I've done that. I moved from Chicago to Berkeley to work. Though I didn't "quit my job" per se, I did make a change. I made a big change...from one positive to another positive, a vastly different positive with potentially different trajectories.

Before heading down to Lagunan Beach from Berkeley, I packed my swim trunks. I intended to go surfing. I intended to participate fully, to dive in the water. Instead, I brought my banjo with me and played for two hours. I sat with some others who decided not to get in the water. I sat with those who needed to dry off after their lesson. I listened to my new friends and my old friends.

I played and I listened. 

Then I walked to the water.

Toad the Wet Sprocket was playing in my head. "Walk on the ocean..." but this wasn't some 1990's melancholia. Instead, it was an invitation. I didn't want to swim, though I love it. I didn't want to surf, though I know it'd be a blast.

See video
stood there thinking, "I want to walk on water." 

So, I wait. I'm listening. I'm almost there, ready to walk on the ocean.

We all can walk on the ocean.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
~ Matthew 14:22-33

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

BONUS! Wait, there's more! On his drive back north early this morning, Tripp recorded the following thoughts on his sojourn with Mr. Bell, creativity, community, forgiveness, and all that good stuff. Have a listen below.


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