“Stoked”-What Listening to Surfers Taught Me About Psalm 138

The only person I’ve known to use the word “stoked”.

I live on an island.  Situated 25 miles off the coast of mainland North Carolina, Ocracoke is a small place.  Only fourteen miles long and two miles wide, we manage to pack in three hundred years of history with fishing, surfing, and a place to relax.  In the winter, it can get lonely.  The crowds scatter, restaurants close, and the days shorten.  However, this is the high season.  We are open for business.   On the heels of another successful folk music and storytelling festival; bicycles, boats, and people are on every corner.

As a pastor in this island community, one of my jobs is to listen and observe the world around me.  On this note, Wesley’s dictum needs to be taken to heart, “the world is my parish”.  If a visitor or tourist has a spiritual or religious need, I want to be available to assist in any possible way I can.  It’s possible to have bad, lonely, or days go wrong, even on vacation.  Perhaps I can help?  Who knows?  So I listen, observe, smile, and say hello.

I encountered a group of young people, probably in high school or college, talking about their drinking and surfing adventures.  I’m not sure they’d had the inside/outside voice talk from their parents or teachers.  I say this because everyone around them knew where, on Instagram, to find images of their surfing and who was drunk the previous evening.  Run of the mill millennial stuff, right?

Yes.  It was until I realized they were using the word “stoked”.  Let me give you an example.  “I was stoked about that wave.”  Here’s another, “I was stoked about getting drunk last night.”  I thought stoked was a TV word, used in movies, and had died with Keanu Reeves’s career.  Apparently people do talk this way, in context, and in real conversations.  I was stoked to be so well informed.

Have I ever been as “stoked” about something as these young people?  I hope I’m stoked on better relationship with God.  One person, however, who would probably relate to these surfers, is David.  David was stoked on God.  Psalm 138 is a psalm of complete and total stokage:

I give thanks to you with all my heart, Lord.

I sing your praise before all other gods.

I bow toward your holy temple and thank your name

For your loyal love and faithfulness

Because you have made your name and word

Greater than everything else. (Dude, he’s stoked on God’s love and faithfulness, it is totally dripping of the page.)

On the day I cried out, you answered me.

You encourage me with inner strength.  (On the day I wiped out and was trashed, you taught me a lesson and I’ve never touched Vodka again.  I’m stoked for your presence, Lord.)

Look at verse five.  I think David might be the Psalmist of the surfers.  Here’s my translation:  Grab your ukuleles, let everyone sing about the Lord’s awesomeness and how stoked the Lord is. 

People, other than those on television, say “stoked”.  God’s vocabulary is bigger than I can imagine.  I’m glad the Bible is talking back.  David seems as “stoked” as surfers on Ocracoke.  Who’s to say God’s not stoked at being stoked?  I’m so stoked that God makes us live again.  I’m stoked God doesn’t let go of our lives despite our attempts to wrestle free and document our sin on Instagram.  Whether in winter or summer, whether surfing or hanging out.  I’m stoked God is faithful.

Richard Lowell Bryant