Asleep In The Boat

Sometimes you can watch a storm forming out on the horizon, dark clouds gathering, ominously approaching as the atmosphere shifts and you can begin to feel the inevitability of the storm’s presence – but more than likely, you still have time to make your way to shelter. Down here in Florida, you can be traveling on the highway and see off in the distance an isolated cell of down pour surrounded by clear skies – it’s a curious thing to see such a torrential event so hemmed in. But if you ever happen to be on the water, a few miles off shore, when a storm swiftly moves in and begins to toss your boat around like a rag doll — then you know what it truly means to be caught in a storm.

Whether it is the looming darkness of a storm that stalks you, or the cacophony of trying to hold on for dear life in the midst of deluge – the idea of storm makes for an evocative metaphor. So your experience might feel like an isolated cell you see menacing a loved one’s life, feeling as if all you can do is helplessly watch. Or it’s the dread you feel about something unavoidably coming your way that will most certainly flip your world on its head, and all you can do is hang on tight until it passes. The idea of storm always stirs something deep within us.

But like the Longfellow poem observes “Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary”. It is common to man, to know the travail of storms . . . which is why Mark 4:37-40 has always been such a troublesome passage for me. The disciples find themselves on open water in the middle of a storm, tossing their boat about and filling it to the point of sinking – they undoubtedly had good reason to fear for their lives . . . and there’s Jesus, asleep in the boat.

christ-asleep-in-his-boat-jules-joseph-meynierThey must have been astounded that he could sleep so deeply with so much chaos about – yet he does not awaken until his disciples awaken him. And here’s where I imagine the disciples, incredulously asking Jesus “Are you just going to let us die here”. Here’s why I find this question so perplexing – they are simultaneously convinced that Jesus can do something about it (or why ask him this question), but they are also afraid he either can’t (he isn’t the Christ), or he won’t (because a God who creates storms in the first place is an unpredictable God).

Jesus speaks “Peace, be still” to the storm before addressing the disciples lack of faith. So at this point the disciples are feeling relieved and likely a little confused about being admonished about their lack of faith – after all, they did wake him up expectantly . . . and was likely still confused as to how he could sleep with so much chaos afoot. And that’s what makes this passage so troublesome for me – why is Jesus asleep in the first place? But even more troublesome, when awakened, why does he view his having been awakened as a lack of faith on their part? Are we not to turn to him in troubled times?

But what if Jesus being asleep in the boat is the whole point of this story? How would that change our understanding of it? What if the true measure of faith is found in our willingness to rest in Him while in the midst of the storm – instead of trying to avoid the storm? Faith can only overcome fear when we finally realize that faith transcends circumstance – instead of insisting that circumstances must change. Jesus may have been asleep in the boat – but he never left the boat . . . he was always with them. We must learn to remember that his presence is always more than enough to see us through anything we face . . . and we should also remember, that God never really sleeps.


The Lord is our shelter . . . 

 

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Pulling On Your Last Thread

Sometimes there are dry patches in your life, seasons of going through the motions while traversing an uninspiring wasteland. There is a numbing compression of emotion, where the span between hope and despair has become a deep chasm, slowly draining you of any expectation, whatsoever. This is the most insidious form of despair. Unlike the sudden shock of despair that overtakes us in grievous events — no, this is a slowly settling despair that creeps in and puts down deep roots. And it leaves you feeling like the very fabric of your life is gradually being unraveled, until it seems it’s pulling on your last thread.

Jesus wanders in the wilderness forty days, mirroring the forty years of the lost generation of Israel. Each step of his wandering, is an emptying out, in refinement of the specific purposeful path his life is about to embark. He willingly suffers this asceticism as an essential part of what is to come. In contrast, Israel’s wandering is more of a dissipation, the pointless result of deciding to reject the life God had called them to, passing on to the next generation the task that they were unwilling to do.

Only you can answer whether or not the wilderness you’re sojourning is about avoidance or preparation . . . or even maybe a little of both. But either way there’s a purposeful distilling taking place – so you’ll be unencumbered for whatever comes next. At the very heart of your wilderness is the calling God has placed on your life . . . so your time in that wilderness is meant to be your struggle between avoidance and preparation.

imagesAs Jesus walks into his wilderness, he is preoccupied with doing his Father’s will, which is to redeem and reconcile, to seek and to save all that is lost. But even his wilderness was a struggle between avoidance and preparation. The real temptation Jesus faced there, had nothing to do with any of the particulars Satan had to offer, as Jesus had the power to do as he wished, quite apart from Satan’s participation. Rather, this is something we get a glimpse of that he will ultimately face at Gethsemane – asking for the bitter cup of his crucifixion to pass.

Therefore, the season of Lent is meant to be a time of intentional asceticism, a purposeful wandering in the wilderness. We walk with Jesus, that we might have a share in his hunger and thirst, so that we might enter into his passion and anticipate the cross . . . so that by contrast, we might celebrate the resurrection anew. Paul sums this up best in Philippians 3:10 – “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”.

So maybe you find yourself already in a wilderness, maybe you’re hungering and thirsting for things you can’t quite identify. Perhaps the Lord is refining your calling – will you allow him to prepare you for what comes next in your life? He knows all too well the temptation to avoid the suffering that is essential to living redemptively sacrificial . . . which is why we are given The Comforter (John 14:16). The lost generation of Israel never found their way out of the wilderness – but Jesus knows the way out of your wilderness . . . so follow him.


. . . where there is a peace that passes all understanding.