Back Into the Water
August 21, 2011
We all have moments, situations or experiences that alter the trajectory of our lives. In 2003, a 13-year old surfer had just that kind of moment. And in what most would consider a disaster that would end everything she knew, she instead used it as an opportunity to reach greater heights—in surfing and in life.
In this powerful message, Ed Young sits down with surfing phenom and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton. And through their conversation, we discover that no matter what “disaster” we experience in life, God can use it to help us get back into the water and discover a greater purpose that we ever even dreamed.
Welcome to Fellowship Church. I want to say a big shout out to all our campuses. We have overflow right here in our different locations, but also Fellowship Church is one church in five locations. Let’s do a shout out to the coolest church in the hottest town, Fellowship Church Miami! How you guys doing? Also, Downtown Dallas, what’s up Downtown Dallas? And up in Plano, and then over in Funkytown, Fort Worth. Welcome to Fellowship Church.
What a great, great time. I’m in the middle of a series called Shark Weak, W-E-A-K. We’re so honored to have with us someone who is just an epic person for this epic time. So I want us to stand to our feet and let’s welcome a surfer from Kauai, Bethany Hamilton!
Ed: How you doing? It’s great to have you here. Have a seat. Wow, it’s wonderful to have you here Bethany.
Bethany: Thank you for having me.
Ed: Please be seated. Whoa! The Sole Surfer herself! Bethany, how do you like Texas? I’ve gotta ask you, I mean this is it. This is Tay-has… I’m talking about the real deal.
Bethany: Yeah, I mean it’s been awesome. Everyone has been super sweet and it is roasting outside! But yeah, it’s been good.
Ed: Yeah, it’s a cool, cool place. Listen Bethany, tell us a little bit about your life. For example, I’ve got to ask you, what was it like growing up in a place like Kauai?
Bethany: Yeah, I mean I was so blessed to grow up in Hawaii. I was born and raised in Kauai and yeah, it’s just been awesome. Like my whole family surfs and we spent a lot of time at the beach growing up, and still do. It’s just a very mellow, laid-back place. We don’t have like a freeway. Like it’s just two lanes around the whole island and it takes like two and a half hours to get around. Yeah, it’s just awesome.
Ed: How many people have ever been to Kauai here? Wow. Impressive! I’ve never been. I’m gonna come over there. Lisa and I will come over there and visit you one day. Kauai.
Ed: So you grew up there and you have a couple of brothers.
Bethany: Yeah, I have two older brothers and they are awesome. Both very talented wave-riders and in other areas of life, too. And we have two dogs. My dog Hana, she stars in Sole Surfer. She’s like my dog. And then I have two awesome parents, whom I love. Yeah, it’s awesome.
Ed: Now one of your brothers happens to be here at Fellowship Church. Let’s put our hands together for Timmy! Tim, the man is rockin’ some cool hair! I mean, you just see him and like, that guy’s a surfer. There’s no doubt.
Bethany: He got inspired by my hair.
Bethany: No, no, I’m just joking.
Ed: So anyway, Bethany, you grew up in a Christian home. And one of the great things about your movie, of course, the documentary, the book, and just knowing you, I love it when young people understand that God loves them. They understand as much as possible about Jesus and they give control of their lives to him. Tell us a little bit about that whole thing, what it was like growing up and about your spiritual pilgrimage.
Bethany: Yeah, when I was about five years old one of my best friends and I just decided, like, to give our hearts to God. And we just prayed, like to give our hearts to God and ever since then it’s just been something that I’ve learned and developed and grown in. Maybe at the time I didn’t completely understand but it was just a step of faith. And not knowing really where this was gonna take me but just trusting in God and knowing that he’s in control. God has been just an amazing thing in my life and has brought be on so many journeys that I never could have imagined on my own. Yeah, it’s been awesome! And my parents were a huge influence in my life but they weren’t like super pushy. They just guided us and nudged us in the way they wanted us to go. But also gave us the freedom and helped us just understand what it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and what it is to, like, live your life for him.
Ed: That’s great. Because you know, there are so many negative role models out there, Bethany, and obviously you’re the antithesis of that. I mean, what a phenomenal role model right here. And I mean, you’re the first to say that, hey, you’re not perfect. No one’s perfect. However, we serve a perfect God, an awesome God. Bethany, there are thousands and thousands of young people who are here right now, listening, watching, etc. I think you would tell them, hey, take the step of faith today. Even as a young woman or young man.
Bethany: Yeah, definitely. Like, God is so good and he loves each and every one of us and I am not perfect and neither are any of you, and that’s what’s so awesome is that God forgives us and accepts us as we are. If we want to we can choose to follow him and give our lives to him. And definitely no pressure. You have to want that and want God to be a part of your life. And he’s gonna take you on amazing journeys and, like, turn bad into good and just make your life, like, rock your world! He’s awesome!
Ed: Bethany, that is so true. Because there are so many negative role models. I think sometimes people get the incorrect view of what it means when we walk with the Lord. The scripture says that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. It doesn’t say that all things are good. Some things are hellacious. Some things are horrible. We all get attacked. You have gone through a tragedy that’s hard to even describe. However, God doesn’t cause bad things but he uses bad things and good things for great things. And so many times setbacks can be set up for God to give us ways we never, ever even imagined.
Bethany: Yeah, for sure. I have a couple of Bible verses I wanted to share this morning. Like, God doesn’t say that life’s gonna be perfect and easy but he does say that, “If you trust in me, like, I will be your strength.” And like, in this Bible verse 2 Corinthians 12:10, it’s like, when I am weak, then I am strong. It’s like God is our strength and when we are weak he is gonna shine his strength through us and be our guider and, like, just help us get through those rough times. And here’s another verse that I’ve just been kind of focusing on lately. It’s Colossians 3:22-24. “Bondservants, obey in all things your master according to the flesh, not with eye service as men-pleasers but insincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ.” And like, that’s just a reminder that, like, we need to serve God and live life to honor him. And that’s when things just work out and it’s just, life’s so much better.
Ed: How about, Bethany, you mentioned before, the whole fear thing. Fearing God, I mean when people hear that or see that, some are like, maybe it’s the first time to even attend church. They’re like, what do you mean, fear God? What do you mean by that? What does the Bible mean by that?
Bethany: Yeah, I mean there are so many different things in our lives that we fear. Like, maybe when you go in the ocean you’re scared of sharks. Or you’re scared of currents or drowning, and just in like life, there’s stuff that we fear. Whether it’s sitting in front of large crowds or someone that’s maybe just kinda being mean to you at school or work or whatever. Or just fear of blowing it. Just all these little things can really hold us back from really trusting in God, and then at the same time we have all this other stuff we’re fearing but maybe you’re not necessarily fearing God. But through the Bible it’s always saying, like, “Fear the Lord, your God.” And just kinda have respect for him. I guess just taking your fear and giving it to him and asking him to help you get through that is essential.
Ed: So, you’re saying to face fear, we fear God. And it’s not fear like, AAAAH! It’s like, God you’re awesome! I’m in awe of you! You’re God, I’m not. And so often we like act like we’re God, obviously we’re not. When we put him, though, in the rightful place as you did as a young girl, that’s when we can have the ability only through his strength to face these fears.
Bethany: And then I had another verse I wanted to share. Deuteronomy 23. “And shall say unto them, Hear O Israel. You approach this day into the battle against your enemies. Let not your hearts faint. Fear not and do not tremble, neither be terrified of them.”
And then I don’t really know where I was going with this one but, I guess it’s like yeah, we have battles and you’re not supposed to fear but you’re supposed to trust in God. And that’s, like, every single day. Like, you’re having stuff that you’re battling with, whether it’s your own flesh, your sinful nature, or just your family is going through rough times or you’re dealing with something with your friend. You know what’s going on in your own personal life and it’s just knowing that you’ve gotta just trust in God and let him take control of that.
Ed: Bethany, in the movie and in some of your writings you, of course, talk about your parents following the Lord, modeling that. And also I like how you put it, they nudged you guys to church, which is huge. As a parent, my wife and I have four kids. Parenting is not easy, it’s challenging. But as you said, that whole thing about modeling Christ in the home, and I want to talk to you, too, in a second about how your parents spent time with you, which is big. But I also go back to that word ‘nudge.’ Because parents have an opportunity to lead their kids to the house. Then, though, you put it so cool. It’s a child’s responsibility to say, “OK, God, I either give the reins of my life to you or I don’t.”
Ed: So, describe a little bit about your parents and what they did. Because obviously they did a lot of stuff right.
Bethany: Yeah. I mean, my parents are awesome and I love them and adore them. They haven’t always been perfect but, like, they really have been a huge influence in mine and my brothers’ lives. And you know, they nudged us to go to church and that was awesome. And most of the time we wanted to go so it worked out in the end.
Ed: Sometimes I don’t wanna go and I’m the pastor. I wake up and I’m like, man, I’m not sure I want to go today.
Bethany: Yeah! And you always have to keep in mind, especially if you’re younger, like, once you’re out of high school and you move out of your parents’ house they might not be nudging you so much. So then it’s like you’re stepping out on your own and it’s your choice ultimately. And like, life’s changing and you’re not necessarily gonna have your good group of friends, if you do have that, and that good influence and support system. So it’s kinda like just forming a pattern and then just a good environment growing up can really build a strong foundation as you get older.
Ed: Very well-said. And when you serve you’ve gotta have a serious foundation. You have to have balance. Speaking of balance, Bethany, I don’t want to throw you off balance, I’ve been trying to work on this thing right here, this Indo Board. I don’t know if you guys have seen one of those before. I’ve seen it in Soul Surfer, and I thought man, wouldn’t it be cool to watch Bethany on this board? Anybody here want to watch her? Because, I mean it takes some serious balance. In fact, some of our staff we tried to do this and we’ve had some injuries. I’ve had some family members get injured on the Indo Board. Bethany, I want you guys to watch this. This is ridiculous.
Bethany: It’s not that ridiculous.
Ed: Yes it is.
Bethany: Yeah, the Indo Board, I spent a lot of time on this, like, when I couldn’t surf right after the shark attack, to help, like, regain my balance.
Ed: Somebody balance somebody. Look at that … look!
Bethany: You pretend you’re surfing.
Ed: Bethany, I’ve gotta try it. I mean, this is embarrassing in front of you. I might get you to hold my hand for a second while I try this. In fact I want to do it this way because maybe the right foot. I want to show you guys how difficult it is.
Bethany: I will catch you if you fall.
Ed: Huh-huh. Whoa! I can do a little bit better than that, wait a minute.
Ed: That’s all I got. That’s all I got. Anyway, you guys pick up one of these. It’s a great workout. I did it one day. I had to do it in between a door frame. My legs were so sore for the next three days I couldn’t even walk. The Indo Board. That was a little random but I’m glad we did that. What balance. Go on back to your friends, because we’re talking about your friends. Friends are crucial, Bethany. I’ve always said this. You know, I could meet your best friends without even knowing you and I could tell what kind of person you are. What kind of young woman you are. And the same is true in my life and every person year. Your friends, your best friends, how would you describe them?
Bethany: Yeah, I have an amazing group of friends. Very adventurous, and a lot of them love the Lord and are just very encouraging in my life and, yeah, it’s been kind of a weird couple of years. Like the last few years since I’ve been in high school and, like, friends going off to college so it hasn’t been quite the same. But it’s cool that you have Facebook ‘cause you can keep in touch. But, yeah, my friends have just been awesome and have made a huge difference in my life as far as encouraging me to just trust in God and walk in the way he has called us to walk in.
Ed: Let me stop you. What you said there was a monstrous principle. They encourage you to walk in God. That is such a word, isn’t it, to young people? Because you talk about patterns, I’m telling you, when kids are smaller, when I was younger, when Bethany was younger, those relational patterns that we formed as little ones, I’m telling you carry us throughout life. And I’m saying this whether you are 10, whether you’re 20 or 40, your best friends have got to be people who encourage you and who applaud you in the Lord, Bethany.
Ed: Because also, you’re in the real world. You’re 21, you’re all over the place, and you rub shoulders, you talk to a lot of people who are clueless.
Bethany: Yeah. And one thing that really made a huge difference in my life was through high school, like my tight-knit group of friends and I had a purity Bible study, which has been huge in my life. Like, you know, honoring God and keeping yourself pure until marriage. And that has been something that has really just stuck with me ever since then. Yeah, it’s cool to know that all of my friends have done pretty well with that.
Ed: Yes. Bethany, you know, the whole friends thing, that’s one of the great things about the church. You know, Fellowship Church, like many other churches, we have a lot of people who show up here every weekend who are testing the waters. They’re thinking about, OK, stepping on the board and taking that step of faith. They’re seeing a little bit about Jesus, about the Bible, etc. So we have those people. And on the other hand we have people here who have asked the Lord to take control of their lives. I’ve always said that the church should be a safe place to hear a dangerous message. So there is an adventurous aspect, a major, major thrill. It gets gnarly walking with God, doesn’t it?
Bethany: Yeah, for sure.
Ed: And people sometimes think, what do you mean by that? Well, you’re a walking, talking, living, breathing example of it. Not only through the shark attack but also what’s happened since then.
Bethany: Yeah, I mean it’s insane like what God has done since the shark attack. My life has totally changed. Growing up in Hawaii it was just so small and laid-back and then all of a sudden I’m just thrown into the world with my story. And it’s been awesome because I’ve just been able to share my store with so many people and be an encouragement in their lives. But it definitely has not been easy. There are definitely rough times and I definitely have to keep my eyes focused on God and read his Word and just give him whatever I’m dealing with when it’s not exactly easy. Yeah, maybe you are questing God right now, whether you have a relationship with him or not. He’s, like, totally worth giving a shot because he loves you just as you are. And I know that my life has been that much more better with him a part of it.
Ed: There’s no question we’re wired for that. And you know, when we give him control, that’s when we gain control. People think they’re in control when they’re running the show but in reality when we admit that we’re out of control, give him control, that’s when we have this peace. What’s it like, though, Bethany, I’ve got to ask you this, to have a movie made about your life? I mean think about that. I mean, all of our lives… your life is a movie, mine is too, I’m just saying. But I mean, we’re talking about a real silver screen movie. What was that? I mean, how did you feel about that?
Bethany: Yeah, I mean, making Soul Surfer was insane. It kinda started brewing over five years ago. We started off writing my book, Soul Surfer, and then my sister-in-law produced my documentary, Heart of a Soul Surfer. And then from there the idea of making an actual feature film came up and we were like, well, I guess it could work out. God, if you want this to happen, like make it happen.
Ed: And the documentary is phenomenal. If you’ve not seen the documentary it’s on the special features of the DVD Soul Surfer, it’s great.
Bethany: So then we kinda started throwing it out there trying to get people to get inspired to make this film. And then we met this guy named Sean McNamara, he’s the director of the film. And I fell in love with him instantly. He’s just a really awesome, great guy and he really wanted my family and I to be involved throughout the whole making of the film. So, yeah, things started coming together and really flowing and started with the casting. By the way, my mom and casted AnnaSophia Robb, who plays me in the movie, so that was really cool. Because it’s hard picking someone to play you in a movie.
Ed: In the service prior to this, I was thinking, OK. If someone came to you and said, OK, I want to make a movie about your life, who would you get to play you? Have you ever thought about that?
Bethany: It was a hard question.
Ed: It is a hard question.
Bethany: My mom did not think it was possible to find anyone that would suit her well but she was really happy with Helen Hunt so that was cool.
Ed: I think I’d pick somebody like, I don’t know, Brad Pitt to play me. Robert Pattinson? I don’t know.
Bethany: I saw Robert Pattinson one time and my jaw dropped.
Ed: Did you really?
Ed: Do you know Justin Bieber?
Bethany: I met him, like, last week.
Ed: Really? You’re kidding me!
Bethany: Yeah. I mean, no! I got really excited. Like, my cheeks are probably red right now.
Ed: Anybody here have Bieber Fever? Yeah, Bieber Fever! AAAAAHH! Yeah.
Bethany: Don’t get too goo-goo-ga-ga, though. He was really sweet. But anyway, yeah, so making the film was really cool, and very challenging at times. You know, writing the script was probably the hardest thing because ultimately the script, like, leads and guides how the film turns out. So that was pretty challenging trying to come up with ways to portray our story properly and really share what we went through, and emotions, and just all those little details that we wanted to share. And of course, keeping God, like, the center focus, but at the same time making it so that the whole world could be impacted by it.
Ed: And you guys did a magnificent job, Bethany. You really, really did.
Bethany: Thank you.
Ed: Bethany, you know this whole thing about walking with the Lord, I like the way you said it. You’re taking that risk. You tried this, you tried that. Talk to the people who are listening to you, watching you right now, who are at that point where they’ve tried everything. They’ve surfed this wave, that wave, whatever. Yet there is this ultimate wave in store for all of us. We’re hardwired for the wave. And you’ve got to take the risk and put it out there, don’t you?
Bethany: Yeah. I mean, I guess in life there are different paths we can take and maybe you’ve tried a couple and they’re not working out. And maybe you’re at the point where you’re questioning, like, is God real? Like, is this something I should really invest time in? Like, God is amazing and I can only say that by what he has done in my life. And I know that he can bring you on adventures in ways that you could never dream of. And yeah, I guess just give him a try. Like no pressure but, like, it’s worth giving God a try. Because he loves you and it could be the most ultimate, amazing ride of your life.
Ed: And I like too, Bethany, the time is now. And even a word to those young people, those students, those kids who are old enough to even understand it, I’m telling you. When you make that decision like this girl, God’s gonna take you places you never, ever dreamed possible. Parents, we have the opportunity, yes, to spend time with our kids, to be their friends, but also to lead them, to nudge them, as Bethany Hamilton said, to church to build that stuff. And then, I mean we’re not totally assured that everything is gonna be perfect, but them I’m telling you, the trajectory will be absolutely amazing. How about this, Bethany? People are here today and they’ve been attacked, and they’re being attacked. And they’ve had and are dealing with major setbacks right now. Family situations, emotional situations, financial situations. Talk to us about getting back in the water. Talk to us about, OK, what now, after the attack. Because our common response is, “Why me?” OK, but obviously you moved from “Why me?” to “What now?” How? How? Just coach us on that.
Bethany: I guess just don’t waste your time thinking, “Why me?” because that is a waste of time. But bring it to God and just, “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Like, just dig into prayer and give it to God and read his Word and surround yourself with people that are gonna encourage you in what you’re going through. And maybe life is kinda going well for you and things are actually feeling a bit easier, then reach out to those people that it’s not going as good. Because we need to be there for each other.
Ed: That’s why our church is called Fellowship. Fellowship is not only what a church is but it’s what a church does. It’s a bunch of fellows, men and women, rowing the ship in the same direction.
Bethany: Yeah. Awesome!
Ed: Thank you! I appreciate that. Well, Bethany, we thank you for being here!
Bethany: Thank you for having me!
Bethany: Thank you.
Ed: Again, what a role model, what a role model. Please be seated. You know, Bethany, I want us to have a prayer and I want to pray for some folks in some different situations. Also some people here, Bethany, who need to take that risk to give their heart to Christ. Because I know that’s your desire. That’s our desire, and I also want to pray for people who are going through setbacks. Major setbacks in their life. Let’s pray together. Let’s bow our heads together, here. No one moving at all in our overflow areas, in all of our different environments right now. There will be many people who will watch this on television. You might be watching it right now somewhere. Maybe you’re in a bar, maybe you’re in an apartment. Maybe you’re in a situation where you’re thinking, you know what, I can’t go on living. Just listen to these words as we pray.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]