I recently watched a movie called Chasing Mavericks. It was about a young man who wanted to surf one of the biggest waves in the world. He approached an experienced surfer in his town to coach him. The coach told him he would need to secure four pillars in his life. The first was physical. He would need to develop the strength to paddle a surf board across the California bay. The second pillar was mental. He would need to observe details because the winds and waves could change in seconds and he would need to change accordingly. The third pillar was emotional. If he hid any fears in his heart, he would need to deal with them. The coach said when a wave crashes on a surfer's head, there is no question he will be afraid. The question is what he does when he's afraid. He must learn to keep going in spite of his fear. And the fourth pillar was spiritual. He needed to settle whether this was his purpose, and only God could settle that with him.
Months later, the young man found the coach in a crisis. The coach had lost his wife suddenly and had trouble recovering from the loss. So he headed off into the ocean with his surfboard. The young man went to look for him and found him in the middle of the waters, drifting into nothingness. The young man said, "What happened to your four pillars?"
The coach said, "They aren't working for me."
The young man then said, "Then you must find a fifth."
"What is the fifth?" the coach asked.
The young man said, "Me." He then led the coach back to shore.
When I heard those lines, I realized that I had spent years studying God's Word. I even graduated at the top of my class in seminary. I had spent years teaching God's Word to others. But I had experienced periods in my life when everything I studied and taught others could not get me through my own despair. I had an empty place in my heart from the losses of my formative years. What I needed personally was a fifth pillar, and God sent me one in the form of my spiritual mentor. She served as Jesus in the flesh to me and poured God's love into me. She walked beside me and prayed for me and loved me unconditionally. She gave me the courage to emerge as a leader for God.
Growing up in Hong Kong, my mother put the fear of failure in me. She placed all her hopes in me and counted on my academic excellence to help the family immigrate to the free land of America. She knew the family didn't have the economic means to send me to school abroad, so our exit plan totally depended on my ability to win a full scholarship. Once I had an acceptance letter with a full scholarship, I could apply to U.S. immigration to exit the country on a student visa.