Monday, September 19, 2016

Bethany Hamilton: Be a Light for Him

If I woke up every day and asked myself "How can I be a light for Him?" I might live differently. I believe I would be more honest and kind to all those I meet. I wonder: Would seek and find more joy? I hope that I would radiate something so powerful that others would inquire about its source: What is it that illuminates your vision, guides your path and leads the way? Perhaps this light is what countless young people see in professional surfer, Bethany Hamilton. It's hard not to.
Being a light for Him is a question that Hamilton, the subject of the 2011 movie, "Soul Surfer" prayed about, intensely before she lost her arm in a shark attack on Halloween night in 2003. As seen in the video posted here, she had given her life to Christ at an early age. For as close as two weeks prior to the attack, Bethany and her mom were prayerfully discerning how she could glorify God through surfing. I love her prayer; it resonates with the four letters we invite every student at St Ignatius College Prep, where I teach, to place at the top of their work: AMDG. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. For the Greater Glory of God. Do what you do for God, to magnify God's greatness. 

Bethany was very specific in her prayer; she wanted to be more than just a surfer—she wanted to be a light for Him. Though she did pray that her surfboard could serve as a platform to be that light, she never imagined how it would come to be. Bethany is lucky to be alive; she lost 60% of her blood in the attack. And for anyone who surfs, they know it's hard enough to get up, stay balanced and ride waves with two arms, let alone one. 
I teach two sections of class called "The Challenge of Scripture" to sophomores. Though the Word can sometimes be foreign, strange or unfamiliar, when it is put in context, when it relates to our lives and when it's heard with open minds and hearts, it nourishes us in a way that little else does. We teach that Scripture can serve as: 
1. a bridge
2. a mirror
3. a light

As a bridge, the Word of God connects us to each other. It carries us over rough waters and to new places. As a mirror, it helps us understand who we are. It can reveal what we need to see in ourselves and often cannot. As as a light, it can guide us through the darkness. It can illuminate what God has in store for us and for all of God's children. 

And yet, I once heard you may be the only Bible a person will ever read. Well, for those who only learn the story of Bethany Hamilton, they will know how Scripture can work as a light and what today's Gospel is really all about. She is not shy about having just one arm; in every picture of Bethany—be it in a bathing suit, her wedding dress, or in a crowd, she does not hide her missing limb. She radiates a joy and light of love, God's great love that offered her consolation and the continued gift to be one with the water in surfing—one of the most spiritual of all sports. 
As my students and I read and prayed with today's Gospel, I offered prayers for Bethany Hamilton and for her family. I showed the Youtube video in class and let the Word come to life...and light.

Luke 8: 16-18
Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

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