Getting Unstuck from Fear: How Surfing Helped Me Find My Courage and Joy

By Angie Gibbons

God's Brave Women - Angie's Story


I like to say that I surf. But what I do has more in common with a baby who has just learned to toddle back and forth between its parents. We call it walking but we all know it is really falling in slow motion.


My version of surfing also involves wobbles and regular falls. It has changed my life nevertheless. In fact, I have come to believe that God uses the unexpected, sometimes the things that terrify us a little, to unlock our full potential.


 

"I have come to believe that God uses the unexpected, sometimes the things that terrify us a little, to unlock our full potential."

 

I had been nervous in pool-deep water since I was a kid. Nervous about heights. Nervous about enclosed spaces. All around nervous. It turned into continuous anxiety in my adulthood.


I was in my early 40s when I got the call that my dad had been in an accident and was in serious condition. Just a handful of days later he chose to withdrawal life-sustaining care so he could, in his own words, “go to heaven instead.”


He left this life the same way He lived it—calm, confident, and faithful. He left me deeply unsettled.


A Christian for most of my life, I had well-defined opinions about eternity and a relationship with God I felt was secure. Losing my dad, a constant source of strength in my life, exposed my soft underbelly. All of my doubts and fears came to the surface in dramatic fashion. I was a believer, yes. But I was terrified of so many things. I knew I was living a half-life, accepting fear as part of my every day, part of my own identity.


 

"I was a believer, yes. But I was terrified of so many things. I knew I was living a half-life, accepting fear as part of my every day, part of my own identity."

 

If I wanted to change and live the faith I claimed, if I wanted to be brave in the way my dad was in his last days, something had to shift.


Although I had lived in close proximity to some of the best surfing spots in the world for years, I had not even considered the sport. I didn’t want to be deep in the ocean much less interacting with it. But here I was, stuck in the fog of my sense of loss, wrestling with my own mortality, and feeling my age. It was as cliché as you imagine. Doing something out of my comfort zone suddenly seemed like the best thing for me. I knew I would regret not trying. I knew that trying, if not surfing, would be part of my story.


I had no idea the journey I was starting. I didn’t know that surfing required regularly being tossed in the waves, scraping legs on jagged reef, or waiting days for the right conditions. It was, in a word, scary.


I also had no idea what joy I would find in the ocean. The place where I had felt so afraid nourished me in ways I didn’t know I needed. In the uncertainty of the wind and the waves, washed in the hot sun, I found my courage and my laughter again. This one brave act became a stepping stone for other bravery in my life.


 

"The place where I had felt so afraid nourished me in ways I didn’t know I needed. In the uncertainty of the wind and the waves, washed in the hot sun, I found my courage and my laughter again. This one brave act became a stepping stone for other bravery in my life."

 

Although surfing was a part of my journey, there wasn’t one moment that helped me turn the corner on worry and anxiety. It was the accumulation of many small changes working together.


First, I was finally motivated to fight for mental health and freedom. I was so tired of the fear and the shame and determined I wouldn’t give up until I found a way through.


Second, I studied scriptures and books on eternity, just as my dad had done for years. I became grounded in the truth that I was safe because of God, and that heaven was my real home.


Third, I began writing out my struggles and gratitude each morning, so I could relinquish fears and heavy thoughts and focus on what was real and good.


It was a process. Certainly, God was at work in the middle of it.


Once I understood that living in fear was not God’s plan and began feeling the smallest sense of relief, there was no going back. I no longer saw fear as part of my identity but as my enemy, the thing keeping me from the full life God had designed.


 

"I no longer saw fear as part of my identity but as my enemy, the thing keeping me from the full life God had designed."

 

I have come to think that everyone who struggles with anxiety or worry has a surfing-type experience waiting for them—a reckoning that proves once and for all that fear is a sham and that God is greater. It is not about daring but about being unwilling to accept a life much smaller than God intends.


 

"It is not about daring but about being unwilling to accept a life much smaller than God intends."

 

He is too good to leave us afraid or to keep us from joy. The only requirement is that we try.


 

Brave Woman Manifesto

Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!

And by the way...


You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means you are full of His strength and power. I would love to connect with you more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my lovely email tribe.


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About Angie


Angie's passion is to empower women as they pursue spiritual and mental wholeness and cultivate a restful life. She speaks at women’s events and writes for her blog www.angiegibbons.com, as well as popular sites like The Joyful Life, For Every Mom, and The Mighty. Angie is a wife and bio/adoptive mom to three girls, who are living their best lives in Hawaii.


You can read her latest tips and inspiration on faith-filled restful living on Facebook or Instagram. And make sure to grab one of her free resources on her website like the 10 Minutes to Peace: Morning Routine.