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April 28, 2011

When I saw the previews for Soul Surfer a few weeks ago, I was squeamish about seeing a movie involving a shark attack. Yikes. It reminded me too much of “Jaws,” which I remember seeing on someone’s cable TV back in the early 80s. I really had no desire to see a girl survive something horrible like that.

But … several of my daughters’ friends saw this movie — and their moms, of course, and everyone loved it. People kept telling me, “It’s got a great Christian message.” OK, so there are not many movies you can say that about, especially not on the big screen. So we went to see it.

And it was amazing. Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who was attacked by a 14-foot shark off the coast of Hawaii when she was 13 years old. This happened in October 2003, so now she’s around 20, and she’s become an inspirational role model to kids, teens, and even adults (like me) around the world. She’s also authored several books where she uses her platform as a survivor and champion athlete to share her faith in Jesus Christ.

Before the attack happened, Bethany was training for a national surfing championship, with her heart set on turning pro. After the tragedy in which she lost her left arm, she didn’t know if she’d ever surf again, and she questioned God about why He had allowed this to happen. Yet, only a month later, she was back out surfing the waves, regaining her footing as a fierce competitor, and capturing the hearts and admiration of millions of fans.

The actress who plays Bethany, AnnaSophia Robb, is the same adorable girl who played Opal in Because of Winn Dixie and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia, two of my favorite books adapted into movies. AnnaSophia has grown up quite a bit and, at age 17, appears older than the 13-year-old Bethany she portrays. But she does a wonderful job of helping us to imagine what life would be like having to recover from such a devastating loss.

There are some poignant scenes with Bethany and her mother (Helen Hunt), as well as Bethany and her church youth counselor, played by vocalist Carrie Underwood, in which these women steer Bethany back in the right direction, as she seeks a new purpose for her life.

If you’re a mom of a teen daughter, I highly recommend you to take her to see this movie. Our theater was filled with teen girls, and afterward, everyone had to compare notes about which scene caused the most tears. Bring your tissues!

On her website, Bethany says this about her faith:

When people ask me what my faith in God means to me, I usually answer in just one word: “everything!”

As I left the movie theater after seeing Soul Surfer, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for the WRITERS who captured Bethany Hamilton’s story into words. How else would I have heard of a surfer girl in Hawaii who got attacked by a shark and used her experiences to reach the world for Christ? Thank you, writers, web designers, photographers, and filmmakers, for producing wholesome, encouraging stories that give all of us a reason to hope!