Scattered, covered and nearly smothered.
Today is the first day most of the pieces of me are in the same place in awhile– have you ever felt that way? Paper thin and bone tired. Yeah.
God’s been working on me. Again. Together we’ve been wandering on the fringes of the wilderness. As I told my dear, sweet Ms. Jane the other day, I’m at that “Experiencing God” place: “The Crisis of Belief”. She said, “ah yes… chapter 6!” Love that crazy woman.
My youngest son and I had this conversation the other night— how in the wrestlings with God or various temptations, it’s important not to give in to the struggle but to call it by it’s rightful name: sin, pride, lack of faith or belief—whatever— and to thank God for the struggle that keeps us holding on to Him– to be thankful that He’s got his strong hands on us. Enemy = Defeated
That night, we talked about a lot of things.
You see, my big, soft-hearted teenager was sobbing.
Hard news shocked our community as we learned that a childhood friend was dead. This was hard enough but seeing a family member’s Facebook post: “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my brother you’ll be.”— put my boy over the edge. Suddenly he was overwhelmed by the instant evaporation of this young life and the unimaginable consequences of the void left behind.
Finding me on the sofa, he crumpled into a heap, spilling his tears and heart into my lap.
For his own brother.
For his two closest friends.
How devastating it would be for us if it was ever him.
For wanting to be closer to his own brother and sister.
Over life’s storms and how hard it is hold on and keep your head high and faith strong.
He was struggling.
My son was in pain.
Cozy Christian cliches weren’t going to cut it for either of us. Good theology was necessary but what he needed in this moment was to understand how it applied to what he was feeling now.
What does it look like?
How is it lived for REAL?
When he mentioned the storms, I remembered a story about another storm found in the book of Mark chapter 4.
Mark records that it had been a long day of teaching and beach ministry. The massive crowds were pressing in on all sides so Jesus took a seat in a boat on the water and taught the crowds from there.
He had spent the whole day breaking down vast kingdom principles into digestible bite-sized bits. Most didn’t understand–even those closest to him. Now He was exhausted.
At dusk Jesus says, “”Let’s go across to the other side.” Leaving the crowd,” (I love this) “they took Him with them in the boat just as He was.*”
Then Jesus slept.
The story immediately jumps to the storm, but with a pinch of holy imagination, I can almost picture moments before. I can imagine Jesus asleep on His cushion and the disciples discussing the days events—the crowds, the highlights, His words. Wondering aloud what this or that meant…but not for long. Because soon that storm was all up in there. Waves were breaking over top of them and filling the boat with water…. and Jesus kept on sleeping.
Bailing, trying to keep their little boat afloat, the disciples are frantic with fear. Incredulous, they wake Jesus and cry: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Because….. that’s only why He came.
Because…… that’s only what He’d been teaching about all. day. long.
In the midst of the crisis they forget everything else they know and cry out for Jesus.
He has spent all day teaching about faith and now He shows them application. Waking, Jesus hushes the wind, calms the sea and in the eerie silence that follows asks them, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”
Then maybe, He goes back to His cushion. I don’t know. Stunned…they’re left asking one another… “Who is this….?” Good question.
Who is this?
Is He in THIS?
Doesn’t He care that we are perishing?
These were the unspoken questions buried within my son’s pain-riddled conversation. In his head, he knows the “right” answers while he wrestles to summon up the necessary faith to reconcile them within his heart and soul. It’s no different for any of us reading this today trying to navigate our own public and private storms. It’s the leap we must make from espousing “good theology” to courageously applying it when it matters most.
What my son needed was to feel the hush in his soul that Jesus was offering in this storm. I needed to feel it too. We talked about what we can know and trust to be true no matter how obvious:
- Jesus was in that boat with them.
- Jesus was in that storm.
- And just maybe, Jesus was the storm, sent by God for this moment.
There are also some not so obvious things here I believe the Holy Spirit invites us to ponder:
- I’m 99.9% certain that when the disciples got ready to launch out to the other side, they were confident in their strength and knowledge of sailing and navigation. Why didn’t they notice the storm? I don’t think it was there. It came up “suddenly” catching them way off guard….without warning.
What if God is trying to show us that we might actually be the ones asleep…complacent, perhaps secure in what we know and what we do, and needing to be awakened? Reminding us how sometimes it takes a sudden storm to shake us from what we think we’re so secure about causing us to run and “wake the Teacher” — crying out for the help we need and the faith to cling hard and fast.
My son and I recognized that God wants us to fight to stay alert and strong in and through Him— especially now because these days are certainly getting more evil.
2. I am 99.9% positive that Jesus rebuked the storm— but not His disciples. I don’t
sense He was upset with them for crying out in the midst of the storm. They
needed to see their need. They needed to see Jesus and figure out where their
faith was anchored.
- Was it in what they knew?
- Was it in their strength and ability?
- Was it in the appearance of things?
They needed to answer these questions …not only for this moment and this storm…but for the storms to come. So do we …and people are watching how we answer them too.
They also needed to answer their own question: “Who is this…?” later asked by Jesus himself: “Who do you say that I am?” Likewise, in every situation we face, that’s the question we are ALWAYS answering. That’s the moment we are living our “good theology applied” to a watching world in need. Sometimes it’s hard to keep this answer straight. Sometimes we say that Jesus is our answer but we don’t live or love like it.
There’s no time for that.
This world is in crisis. The storm clouds are gathering. There is a generation —or two— crying out for answers they can SEE and FEEL being applied to all of life by those of us who say we know Jesus. They’re asking:
- What do we mean by love, unity, eternity?
- What does that look like applied practically to every situation?
- What does biblical marriage look like?
- How can I push back the darkness and fight the urge to retreat into numbness too?
I heard it in the voice of my crying teenager and a quieter conversation I had later with my other son. I heard it back in March as young women testified of the dark struggles in their lives wrestling with attempted suicide, bullying, self-mutilation, eating disorders and molestation. I heard it in a neighbor’s voice yesterday— lost and trying to find a solution she’s not yet ready to receive….
Oh “Teacher… do you not care that we are perishing?”
As the Church we find ourselves in the midst of our own crisis trying to figure out how to truly minister in the name of Christ in all of these places. Part of my personal struggle is sorting out how to do as much as I can before it’s too late. There are days I feel like a muddle-headed, panic-stricken disciple bailing water from a sinking ship: helpless and inadequate for the task. Because alone… I am. Then I remember… as I reminded my son… of one more thing:
It’s the simple understanding of something that is NOT recorded in scripture but we can bank on it: the disciples made it safely to the other side that night. They made it all the way…together, with Jesus “in the boat” with them… “just as He was”. We’re gonna make it too.
Somehow, that’s helpful to me.
Standing and wiping his face, I could tell it was helpful to my son as well.
Then together, in THAT faith…we made it to the other side….one more time.