I went on a mini girls retreat this past weekend, in a cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was just what I didn’t know I needed.
As we poured over the scrapbooks full of memories, we laughed and remembered stories and things from mission trips, church outreaches, “Thursday night lineup”, beach trips and watching relationships be formed and shaped in our early 20’s. We caught up on what had happened in each of our lives – the details – since only so much had been visible on social media.
Without schedule, everyone found the time they needed to be seen and heard, to share their hard things and yet speak to the goodness of God amidst it all. Friday night around the campfire, bundled in blankets… Saturday around the wood stove, during walks in the show, and over tacos and chocolate fondue.
It reminded me so much of the environment I sought to create the years I planned and led the retreats for the women of my church back in Illinois. It made me smile.
Today as I sit enjoying the sun before an afternoon hike and flight home, somehow the story Mark tells of Jesus resting on the bow of the boat that is being tossed by the waves comes to mind. The disciples – seasoned fishermen that had spent their entire lives studying and knowing both the water and the weather, cried out in the middle of the storm “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).
The Greek word used here also has the meaning of being destroyed.
So, we might phrase it more like… ‘Do you not see what is going on here right now? This is going to take us out and you just sit there? What the heck??’
In other words, we tend to panic.
We question where God is and what is going on, does he not see?
We assume God’s apparent immediate inaction is proof that he does not care.
We assume we know how what is going on is going to take us out. For good.
All while Jesus is right there with them.
We often look at the story of Jesus calming the waters as an immediate thing. I know in that moment he did calm the waters, causing his disciples to wonder who it was that could command the untamed forces of nature? And I know that in any given moment, that is what God can do – bring peace to our souls when we cry out in prayer.
Yet as I sat with these dear friends and we shared the good and the hard things of our lives since we all moved to different places and we went our separate ways, I could see so clearly how present Jesus had been walking with each of us no matter what came our way.
Jesus faithfully calming the storms and our fears….over years.
We talked of how hard it is to watch others that have hit the waves we have, things that have caused us to detangle our faith (I think I like this word now more than the deconstruction term that I have used for so long) – and then walked away, deciding that the pain and hardship of life was just too much and God could not be real, faith was not worth holding onto. Yet I think the analogy one of my friends shared works well here: ‘Faith is like food. I’m not going to stop eating just because a few restaurants can’t seem to cook it how I like. I still need it for life”
We talked about how sure we were that we knew everything about life and faith in our early 20’s and even 30’s, and how sure we are of God now but now even more convinced we don’t know everything. It’s not so much about the right and wrong of things, but of the surety of the One we know, and our confidence in his ability to steer and hold our lives as we lean into and are transformed by the love we find. The more I try to see Jesus in the people around me, the more I realize that without him, I can’t love them like they deserve. Hm. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?
I guess that is what growing older does to us all, if we let it. One of my friend’s sister (and a friend of hers) blessed us by cooking all weekend for us. Sunday morning I sat across the table from her as she made scones, and we talked about life and kids and being women who have gone to seminary and yet don’t have any particular direction of ‘how we will use our degree’ (because that is always the question you get). I appreciate so much the place she said she and her husband have landed, when I asked her if she thought she was ever “late” in figuring things out in faith or calling: “We are fully convinced that with age comes wisdom, and that in this waiting period, if what we want to do isn’t happening yet, its because we’re not ready”. She put words to what I expected was true, but needed to have someone validate. It was good to hear, especially since in some ways the rough waters in the boat of my life is just now starting to calm down.
Back to Jesus and the boat.
If you look at this simple story as more of a life story…. does it change how you see Jesus and his ability to hold you safe? That sometimes perhaps, it may seem he has no idea how many waves are coming, or that they seems to crash over, and over, and over… yet he is there, never leaving…and at the right time the waves come to peace.
We never know what would have happened had any of the disciples jumped out of the boat (somehow I expect Jesus would have jumped in to save them). We don’t know how the people in the other boats were reacting – and they didn’t have Jesus in theirs. (I never really caught that in the story before). Were they freaking out too? Did they know why the waves stopped?
Mark doesn’t ever tell us how what Jesus did affected the other people in the other boats. The same is true of life. We may never know how our clinging tight to Jesus as we walk this life shows the reality of God. Others might chalk it up to ‘time healing everything’ or ‘you’ll make it through’…… when we know there was Someone else in the mix.
The difference is the way the disciples now see Jesus as a result of going through a storm with him. They know he doesn’t walk away. They know he never gets out of the boat.
Today, my encouragement to you is to take a moment and think about your story. Whether you have walked with Jesus for many years or just a few – remember this is a life-long commitment he makes. How can you see his goodness, his care, his bringing peace to your life over the years you have chosen to walk with him? Close your eyes, take a minute, and surrender to him again. Admit where you struggle to see him in the boat. Take up faith to keep on trusting he’s there.
If you are still checking him out or aren’t sure if you can hang with him any more… I get it. His people are hard to take sometimes….even if sometimes they get it right. I’m so sorry if someone has pushed you out of the boat, or told you there isn’t room, or if you jumped out yourself. I have a feeling Jesus is out there with his own rescue boat for you, just trying to show you he’s still ready to be your strength and peace in the storms of life.
Blessings, my friends!