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 (Manna 63: Music)
With Every Break Comes Another Wave
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With Every Break Comes Another Wave

Andy Wang—Irvine, California, USA

On the Sundays that I am free, I like to take my board out to the Pacific Ocean for an enjoyable surf session. Although I am still a beginner, it is an invigorating activity that allows me to get away from the hustle and bustle of life.

During one of my first surf sessions, I remember walking toward the ocean and watching the waves come in from the horizon toward the shore. The waves looked small, but they were actually taller than they appeared to be. Putting my board onto the water beside me, I trudged through the waves until the water level went from knee-deep to waist-deep. What was out there? I did not know just yet. I slowly entered into unknown waters with an innate curiosity as to what the great big blue would offer.

When I look back on the past few years of my life, I can say that my journey through business school was a lot like learning to surf. Although challenging, I was able to rise and stand triumphantly with God at my side.

PLUNGING IN

Since my undergraduate years, it had been a goal of mine to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in order to expand my skill set and achieve a management position in the future. In April 2007, I began my part-time MBA program at the University of California, Irvine. At the time, I was also working full-time as an electrical engineer at a major aerospace company in southern California.

I was fortunate enough to work for an employer that offered a full tuition reimbursement program, as long as I continued to work while I studied. I was not sure what I was getting myself into, but it did not seem like it was going to be so bad. Little did I know that I was in for a daunting challenge.

For the first few quarters, I had to adapt to being in school again. A typical day started at 5:35 am and was followed by working for eight hours, rushing from work to school to slave away on school assignments, and then attending class from 7 to 10 pm. In addition, I had to attend group meetings, work on case studies, rehearse for group presentations, etc. It was the toughest schedule I had ever dealt with, and I felt spread thin.

Things started to further accelerate at the end of 2007 when I was elected as the General Affairs council member at my local church. My basic duties consisted of logistical tasks such as performing inventory checks, purchasing and replenishing supplies, and arranging lodging and transportation for out-of-town guests.

However, being a board member was quite involved. Other than the jobs listed above, I also had to listen to church members’ problems and provide advice. At this point, it felt like I was paddling toward deeper waters as things became increasingly hectic.

WIPING OUT

I was juggling three responsibilities: full-time employee, church council member, and part-time business school student. Every day, stress constantly followed me wherever I went, whether at work, school, or church. At times, it felt like a powerful wave had hit me from behind, causing me to fall off my board and to swallow an enormous gulp of salt water.

One time, I had several exams and case studies due the same week a local church retreat had to be organized. I identified greatly with the stress that the prophet Elijah felt as he fled from Jezebel, who wanted to kill him (1 Kgs 19). Time always seemed like it was running out. I also experienced fear and was weak in faith, just like Peter, when he walked on water (Mt 14:28-31).

I started to think that the onslaught of stress from three different directions was negatively affecting my faith. I knew something was wrong since I did not receive any physical or spiritual rest on Sabbath. I would go to church and my head would ache. This was a clear sign that I needed to re-evaluate my life and take action.

FINDING MY BALANCE

In May 2008, during one of the church council meetings, I expressed my difficulty in executing general affairs tasks due to my stress levels and lack of time. Although the council had not previously sensed my anxiety, everyone was very understanding of my struggles. They advised me to delegate more tasks to other church members, which reminded me to take the initiative in withstanding oncoming waves until I could find my balance.

I also talked to my church friends, family, and pastors, which helped a lot as a channel for my emotions. Confiding in those of the same faith is important because they can understand and provide comfort and edification for church- and faith-related issues.

After that council meeting, I began the healing process. I discovered that I had taken a lot of matters into my own hands, thinking it would be easier than involving multiple parties. However, this actually created more stress because there was so much that I had to do.

Aside from delegating, I began to work more on my spiritual cultivation because I realized that it was the root of my problems. How could I be a proper worker for God if my faith was not set on a solid foundation? Previously, I felt quite far from God, which was very disturbing to me. Even though I tried to function normally and show my cheery self on the outside, I was feeling spiritually down and miserable inside. I decided that I needed to turn to God’s word and spirit to build myself up and quench my anxieties. I knew that what I truly hungered for was His bread to fill me so that I could gain comfort and strength .…

I instituted a weekly lunch fast on Sabbath to lay all my cares and burdens before the Lord. My immediate prayer requests were for God’s guidance in all of my endeavors and that I could carry out my tasks without feeling stressed. I also asked the Lord to help me improve my time and priority management.

At the same time, I became serious about developing a better habit of regular Bible reading so I would always be infused with the word of God. I found new meaning in my favorite verse: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).

Over the following few months, as I overcame each wave another would come, and it felt like a never-ending battle; but I started to find hope in God after making changes to my life. As Psalm 89:9 states, “You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” In only about a month’s time, I could sense that God was helping me.

STANDING UP

Surfing looks easy, but to be able to stand up on your board, you must be able to find your center of gravity amidst relentlessly pounding waves. You must paddle until the wave is just about to break and until the speed of your board matches the speed of the wave. If you succeed, you are able to push up from your board and stand.

Through uplifting sermons, inspirational words from friends, and satisfying prayers, I realized that God had chosen me to be His worker for a reason and that this was a test to see if I could fully rely on Him. I was only a vessel of God and no better than anyone else. But the work that I was doing, however small it was, had its purpose in God’s great plan.

After I started putting the needs of the congregation before my own, I began to feel joy in doing church work, which I had not previously experienced. For example, when I was tasked with exploring better lighting solutions for the chapel, I didn’t see it as a tedious task, but rather something that would allow the congregation to enjoy Sabbath in a comfortable and aesthetic setting.

I also began to realize that if I put God first, He would provide. In Matthew 6:33 it says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” I found this to be very true. Even though work and school assignments were important priorities, I proactively set aside time for God by consistently reading the Bible and attending more weeknight services. Once the Sabbath rolled around, I set aside that day for God and did not worry about school or work, because I realized that God is the only one to dictate what happens in the end, despite all our human efforts. As time went by, I started noticing better grades in business school and overall smoothness.

I thank God that my job at the time was manageable, which gave me time to take care of church matters throughout the day. God also provided me with a focused, composed mind throughout the rest of my business program. Time management became more natural to me, and because my planner was always filled with things I had to do that day, I was able to keep focused. I was able to finish assignments weeks ahead of time and obtain decent grades. I even had time to pursue my hobbies.

LOOKING BACK

In retrospect, I really thank God that He guided me through that difficult period and helped me to understand the powerful role of spiritual cultivation. When I was younger, my religious education teachers’ universal tag statement for spiritual growth would be, “Pray and read the Bible.” It seemed so proverbial to me because we may often say it as lip service. However, the statement is not to be underestimated. Relying on God’s word and spirit can build up whatever we are lacking in life. Food and drink can satisfy our weak flesh temporarily, but what can really fill the void within us is spiritual nourishment. In fact this was the one element that I had been missing all this time and what would help me solve my problems. When I improved in the area of spiritual cultivation, I felt that the word of God was always in my heart to comfort me even when I felt down and that the Holy Spirit would reassure me to keep my faith. I received a type of spiritual peace and joy that one cannot find in the world.

When I ponder upon my life, I can say that the events in my life act very much like the pattern of waves. If I am victorious during one stage and am afforded a break, another wave will come, bringing the next host of trials. However, like a seasoned surfer after countless surf sessions at the beach, a Christian who continually cultivates his spirituality and relies on God will no longer be daunted by the waves.

I can now understand that God had His plan for me in the waves that I faced. God granted me this valuable experience so that I could learn to face the waves of life with calmness, composure, and joy. By harnessing His life-changing word and spirit, we can truly ride the waves of life and be triumphant.

 

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