Have you ever had a time when you felt a time when you felt that you were taking leaps and bounds forward, only to be setback at a critical moment? Who hasn’t? Soul Surfer (106 min, PG) tells the true story of how Bethany Hamilton, a promising 13 year old surfer, grew stronger in her faith as the result of a serious surfing incident.
Bethany grew up in Hawaii with parents who are keen surfers as well as followers of Jesus. She started surfing at a young age, and was competing before the age of 10. On 31 October 2003 with the National Surfing Titles looming, Bethany and her best friend Alana were off wading among some turtles. Without any warning a tiger shark grabbed Bethany’s arm and took a bite out of her surfboard. She lost 60% of her blood, and was twenty minutes away from dry land.
While being transported to hospital one of the paramedics whispered these words from Deuteronomy 31:6: “God will never leave you or forsake you.” Later, reaching out to understand the attack, Bethany broke down and asked her youth group leader, Sally, how such an incident could be in God’s plan for her life. Sally said that God had given her this well-known verse for Bethany – Jeremiah 29:11.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Can you imagine being in this situation? Have you experienced something similar in your life, or know somebody who has?
Within a month she was back on her surfboard, determined to make it work. Eventually she would also return to competitive surfing. In 2005 she travelled to Thailand with World Vision encouraging tsunami victims to get back into the water.
The movie had my whole family riveted from beginning to end. The turning point was portrayed realistically enough for my children without being graphic, and we were able to talk about aspects of the movie as they unfolded.
We got a sense of how persistent Bethany was, how she didn’t want to give up. Her determination was something that we talked about as a family. Much like the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible (Genesis 22) , it was as though Bethany had to be ready to give up on her surfing dreams.
Another aspect of the movie that we enjoyed was the soundtrack. It includes popular Christian artists like Francesca Batistelli (one of my family’s favourites) Mat Kearney and Britt Nicole, as well as mainstream acts Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Brian Setzer.
This is a very encouraging, uplifting movie. The bonus features contain some great footage of the real Bethany in action, including interviews with her and her family. It’s wonderful to see that Bethany has gone on to encourage others in their walk with God, and with God’s help is shining His light in the world of professional surfing.
Throughout I was reminded that I can still be used by God in whatever state I’m in. Just as God has plans for Bethany, He does for you, and He does for me. Of course it’s not to say that His ways are easy, but that He is always there for us, on every step of our journey.
You can learn more about Bethany and her journey at the Soul Surfer website.
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