One evening, after a long day full of working, cooking, dishwashing, laundry, and kids entertaining, my husband and I watched Bethany Hamilton’s documentary Unstoppable on Netflix.
Bethany Hamilton is an American professional surfer who survived a shark attack in 2003 in which her left arm was bitten off. However, she ultimately returned to professional surfing and won a series of international and national prizes. In 2011, the feature film Soul Surfer was released based on the autobiography Bethany wrote in 2004. That’s where I first got to know her. I was very touched and inspired by that film. And this documentary, Unstoppable, released last year, told a story from a different angle about her Christian faith, family, and surfing career.
The following day as I was still thinking about the documentary, I read Romans 5 in my bible.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ” (Romans 5:1-5)
“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” —- such an appropriate outline for Bethany’s story. Yet, it rings true to all of us at some point in our life.
We live in a strange time these days. We work from home while homeschooling our children. We can’t take our kids to the playground in the park on a sunny day nor gather more than five people, and we talk to our neighbours at two meters distance. Nothing feels normal.
Hospitals are overflowed with patients. The medical staff works tirelessly, reaching out for the donation of more masks. People are dying every day. The stock market dropped drastically. A former colleague of my husband became unemployed. Yet, two weeks ago, he was about to sign another contract and see several other leads for his side business. Countless people lost their jobs overnight. And that discomfort we feel is grief. We are suffering.
But that’s not the end of our story if we refuse to let it. It’s certainly not the end of Bethany’s story. She took the fact of suffering from losing her one arm, confronted it, accepted it, owned it, and allowed God to move in her circumstance through her faith and choice of showing up and persevering. And the rest is history.
When facing suffering, whether from missing out the walks in the sun, being stuck in a small apartment with kids, or losing health, we often are tempted to look at what others have or can do while we have not or can’t. Bethany was tempted, when she lost a major game, heartbroken, to think how far she would have achieved if she could surf with two arms, like her other competitors.
When I bumped into the pots and pans the third time in a row while cooking in our tinny kitchen, which we use for every meal now, or my kids were too loud in our two-room apartment that I could barely hear my own thoughts nor have any other space to escape, I was tempted to think life would be so much easier and I would be so much happier if we had a bigger kitchen in a bigger apartment!
I sat down with God and asked Him, “Why do I still feel what I have today is not enough?” Instead of a direct answer, God gave me an instruction, “I want you to give your time and resources to your family. Be present for them.”
Suddenly I understood, that wishful thinking removed me from the abundance of here and now, even in the felt suffering, and transported me to the land of scarcity, which ultimately is a lie. The only way to beat that lie is to make the best of what I have for the people I love.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. “(Romans 5:1-2)
This grace in which we now stand has promised us all that we need for each day, no matter how hard this season seems to be. Bethany Hamilton is a vivid testimony for that faithful word of God, a role model, and encouragement for so many of us. When we hold on to the truth in Christ that we have enough and will never be lacking, and act it out in generosity, dear reader, you and I in our small corner of the world, can too, let hope and light shine through our lives.
That afternoon, I made a loaf of whole wheat bread from scratch for the first time with my son in that same tinny kitchen where I had lost in complaining. The fresh smell of the just-out-of-oven loaf, the great taste of a warm slice with butter and jam, and my son’s eagerness for one more piece were the reward of me claiming my abundance that day. I was thankful for my kitchen, for what I have, and for what I can make out of it.