[CF Devotionals] 2012-03-07 - Pressing On

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:13-14, NIV

I recently watched "Soul Surfer." This movie dramatized the true story of teenaged surfer Bethany Hamilton. She was living the normal life of a teenager, enjoying time with friends and being noticed by boys, trying to balance school and family commitments, and involved in a youth group and church activities. Competitive surfing was her passion, though. It wasn't just a hobby; she was good at it. She had skill and talent. She was serious about being a success as a surfer.

Life changed drastically when Bethany's arm was bitten off by a shark. Despite such a traumatic loss, Bethany was determined to surf again. Bethany and her family struggled with her situation. People surely thought Bethany was "in denial" and would have to find new dreams, and just accept that her years as a surfer were over. I'm sure those who loved her were afraid for her to get back in the water, and didn't want to see her disappointed or hurt.

Bethany knew she had to try, though. Surfing was too much a part of who she was for her to give it up without a fight. She had put too much of her heart into it, as well as hours and hours of training, and plans to compete and achieve greater and greater skill. She figured out a way to overcome and persevere, despite obstacles some would view as impossible. It took time, some trial and error and facing some setbacks, but Bethany returned to competitive surfing.

The movie wasn't preachy, but it was clear that Christian faith was part of life for Bethany and her family. I don't know this young lady personally. I can only guess at some things about how she made her decisions, what motivated her, and where she found strength. I know her physical and emotional pain must have been tremendous at times. No matter what, she still has lost an arm, and will always have to work around that loss. She'll have to deal with those who pity her because of her situation. If the movie and common sense are any indication, she did her share of grieving, questioning and struggling with how her life would be different. I suspect there are times when she still does. She took some time to hurt and heal, and then she chose to "press on." Faith seems to clearly be a part of that process for her. Having the support of family and friends who love her is another part. Knowing who she is seems important, too.

The thing is, Bethany made choices. She could have given up, but she didn't. She could have given in to fear or the negative things people said, but she didn't. She could have gotten stuck in the past and become bitter about her loss, but she didn't. If she got angry, she let that anger serve as a source of motivation. Bethany Hamilton got brave and chose to take on the challenge of her life.

Most people with physical limitations don't like to be thought of as "inspirational." Some might use that word to describe Bethany Hamilton and what she's been through. Personally, I prefer to think of her as a positive example. She is an example because of how she has chosen to live her life, not because she's missing an arm. What some would view as a tragedy actually opened a lot of doors for Bethany. She's been willing to share her story and unique experiences to encourage millions of people. She has a perspective on challenges that many can learn from. May we all press on as Bethany has, and stay focused on moving forward in pursuing what God has called us to do.

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