Situational connections to your past. They are real and they are powerful. They are what we call the “Sneaker Waves” of life. We’ve all heard the stories or experienced it first-hand. You’re walking down the beach, jumping and playing in the surf tides, when an unexpected wave knocks you off your feet. Before you know it, you find yourself on your back, or worse yet, digging sand out from between your teeth. Watch out, these waves can also sweep you out to sea.
Out of place and unexpected are these dreaded Sneaker Waves. They come out of the calm smooth waters of life and roll over you. Whether in a moment with your new spouse or stepfamily, or just doing something that anyone would consider normal activity, the Sneaker Wave shows up and does its best to ruin everything.
I (Gil) recall such an event with Brenda that left me dazed and confused. It’s better told from her viewpoint.
It took place years ago, barely into our new marriage. We planned a “bonding weekend” with the kids. I think it was the first one. We have since coined these “Triple F Events.” You know the kind—Forced Family Fun! Gil and I were excited to get away and start some new history with our blended family. It would be an incredible time to laugh and really get to know each other better, away from our daily routine.
Surprisingly, the kids (five with us at that time) seemed to be up for it. We set a positive tone going into it so the kids all bought into this fun weekend!
The location was two hours away, near Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Bruce and Vicky were gracious to welcome us with open arms to their lake house, not really knowing what to expect. There was the anticipation in the air. During the drive, we all acknowledged we were ready to hit the lake. The kids were all comparing their stories of craziness while water skiing. Kamikaze Kyle always has the best stories…and they are all true! Amazing that kid is still alive.
Once we arrived, we settled in as quickly as we could. We were ready to hit “fun mode.” Everyone found their beds and I started unpacking. Then, out of nowhere, this overwhelming feeling crept in. I felt unsettled and depressed. At first, I just tried to ignore it. I put my head down and kept moving. I was sure it would go away. “What the heck is this?” I thought. “Why am I feeling this way?” But the more I tried to ignore it, the more my eyes welled up. As I tried to hide the water dribbling down my face, I finally realized I needed to get out of there.
I made it to our car in the driveway and tried to get out of anyone’s view. I just needed a place to re-group and sort out my feelings. I could not stop crying. I was almost shaking. By the time Gil found me I was by the car. I couldn’t even put into words what I was feeling. Not knowing what to do, I graciously asked Gil to find Vicky so I could talk with her.
As my dear friend and I sat in the driveway, I confessed to her what I did not want to admit to Gil. I was missing my “old family.” I was supposed to be here with my ex and just our kids. What was I doing here with these new people? Where did they come from? Yes, I was grieving the loss of my precious family and the many fun vacations we had taken together through the years. But mixed in with the grief was a sense of guilt. How could I feel this way? Didn’t I appreciate my new family? Look at how much the Lord has restored my life? I had an incredible gift given to me in Gil and his kids, wasn’t that enough? How selfish can I be?
Talk about a combination of bitter and sweet.
My friend’s understanding of encouragement helped me identify my feelings. Once I was able to pinpoint what was going on I was able to move forward. I caught my breath, gathered my wits about me, and thought, “I need to talk to Gil.” In the meantime, poor guy, he thought he did something wrong or that I was mad at one of his kids. I was able to explain to him what I experienced and we both agreed it had all the makings of a Sneaker Wave, hence the term. The power of the emotion (wave) is from the past. And it can knock you off your feet and take you out if you’re not careful. You need to S.U.R.F. it together!
We learned about this S.U.R.F. acronym when we were leading a mission trip with Forward Edge International. While in New York City, “surfing” was just part of survival mode: S= servanthood; U= unity; R= relationship; F= flexibility. Every once in awhile we would ask fellow team members (especially if things were a little tense), “How’s the SURF?” We needed to do a self-check and look at the circumstances and the team as a whole. How fitting this is to use in our family now…and with each other!
You have to ride out these Sneaker Waves together. I (Brenda) am not a water person. I am not very comfortable with water (unless it’s frozen). But didn’t we say in the beginning that stepfamily life is an adventure? What better place to be, uncomfortable, as a reminder that you can’t do this alone. You need God.
Sneaker Waves are an internal struggle that sometimes catches us off guard. As time has been my friend, these torrents are fewer and far between, but they still happen. And they always come when I least expect them. So, when we get nailed and react by being quiet, a little more sensitive than usual, or flat out rude, we can say to each other, “Man, I’m sorry, I got nailed by a Sneaker Wave today.” And you know what happens? All defenses go down. We are compassionate with each other and ready to walk through the scenario together. It is amazing how that affects our safety (mortar).
By exposing what just happened in your heart and head, it allows your spouse to ride the wave out with you and keep your head above water. Also, by being able to label what’s going on, your spouse knows you’re not mad or upset with them—you’re just dealing with past issues. It’s not about them, it’s all about you.
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