There have been thousands of “waves” of the Holy Spirit throughout church history. Here’s one example: in the country of Wales, between 1762 and 1862 there were at least 15 outstanding revivals (see “Revival Comes to Wales” by Eifion Evans).
I grew up in Southern California, and did some surfing. I never surfed enough to became a good surfer. But I did learn some of the fundamentals of the sport. There are many parallels between catching a wave on a surfboard and catching a wave of the Holy Spirit.
What do you do when you surf a wave?
1. Watch for it. While we are never without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s good to always be looking for incoming waves. When you see people being touched and hear stories from near and far about extraordinary things God is doing, you are seeing incoming waves that might reach your own shores. This raises your faith level, and spurs you on to seek the Lord diligently, to pray and listen and respond to him.
2. Get yourself in a position to catch it. Being in the right place at the right time is supremely important in surfing waves. You learn it by doing it. Simply go where there are waves and you pick up the knack for being in the right place. Things of the Spirit are “more easily caught than taught.” So hang around people and places that are receiving and giving away the Holy Spirit’s blessings. Several years ago I was in Hawaii on a ministry trip (poor me, someone has to do it). I got a couple of brief surfing opportunities with my son, Ben. While I was paddling to catch a wave, one of the local surfer women shouted out, “go, go, go!” She could see I needed to pick up the pace to catch the wave. We need friends around us to cheer us on towards our spiritual goal.
3. To catch the wave. You have to build up speed to catch the wave, which means you have to paddle hard. I relate this to having good spiritual habits. You learn to pray by praying. Just as surfers build up strong upper body muscles through lots of paddling, we build up spiritual muscles through frequent practice. Mother Teresa said, “Prayer is a 2-way conversation. God speaks, we listen. We speak, God listens.” The Holy Spirit is our constant inner teacher. We tap into what he is saying by maintaining a posture of prayer. It’s not easy to catch a wave in surfing, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. (I think it’s much easier to receive the Holy Spirit than to catch a beach wave!)
4. When you’re on the wave, you move in response to the wave. You “do what the wave is doing.” Keep listening. Abide in him. Get your instructions from him. Do what he says. In Paul’s teaching on discerning spiritual things, he says, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2). If we have access to the mind of Christ, that means he can potentially be feeding us his thoughts non-stop. Because we aren’t perfect receptors for his thoughts, we miss a lot of stuff. Nevertheless, he is always ready to lead and guide. (Every analogy has weaknesses. In a sense, we are always on a wave of the Holy Spirit because he is connected to our own human spirit. See 1 Cor. 6:17, 2 Peter 1:4). In surfing, you “feel” your way along the wave. Not unlike moving with the Holy Spirit.
5. The power comes from the wave, not from us. If we abide in him, we will bear much fruit by virtue of our connection with his love, wisdom and power. This is liberating. We never have to produce the power, and we never take the credit, because he is the source of every blessing.
Good waves come in sets of 6 or 8, then there’s a lull, then another set rolls in. Watch and wait for the right times to surf. If there are no waves, go have a barbeque on the beach! At all times, love one another, serve the needy, and do the “main and plain” things that every Christian should do.
6. Riding a beach wave is unlike any other feeling I’ve had. It’s definitely a euphoric experience. I think it’s even more fun than skiing or snowboarding – being smoothly carried along by a very powerful force. For me, these euphoric feelings in surfing have been few and fleeting. The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is much more constant and dependable than a beach wave. He is always with us. We don’t focus on euphoria, we focus on him, and sometimes he gives us a taste of heaven, and helps us to help others experience the same wonderful freedom.
7. Disclaimer. Maybe the biggest weakness of this analogy between surfing and responding to the Holy Spirit is that surfing is and individual sport and immersion into the Holy Spirit is best done in relationship with others.
8. Watch for waves! Paddle hard! Trust the wave-Maker. Be connected to a community of comrade-Holy Spirit-surfers.