When Maria and I lived in the Baltimore-Washington area we used to serve as the crew on a friend’s 29-foot sailboat as he raced on the Chesapeake Bay. We usually didn’t do very well in the actual races but it was a joy for us to simply be out on the open water. As novice sailors we especially enjoyed our captain, Rowan’s, lessons on sailing. In those moments when the mainsail caught the wind just right, the feeling of skimming across the water was indescribable.
I remember preparing for one race as Rowan expressed his trepidation because the weather forecast was less than ideal. It would be hit or miss as several ominous looking storms were in the vicinity. I was anxious to get going and voted that we give it a try. When the rain started mid-race I thought, “Oh well, we’ll be cold and wet but this isn’t so bad.” Then the wind picked up. That was when the terrifying reality set in that we were not only out of our league but we were truly at the mercy of the wind and the sea…
When I saw this photo online it captured the intensity of that day on the Chesapeake. This week’s Gospel provides us with a powerful image for what it means to journey with God. Keep in mind as you read this passage that many of those on the boat with Jesus were experienced fisherman.
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Mark 4:35-41
Think about this. The experienced fishermen on board were well aware of the danger they were in that evening. They knew that when the boat started to take on water they were no longer in control of their destiny. Jesus, who of course is secure in His destiny, was resting. The carpenter was asleep while the fishermen were in a panic! It is in our nature to want to control our destiny, especially in stormy times. Jesus’ disciples had journeyed with Him but were still learning who He really was and what His true identity meant for them. This particular journey across the water provided an unexpected loss of control that caused them to incredulously question Jesus’ concern for them.
In our journey with God we, too, must turn over control to Him not only in the midst of the storm but in our everyday lives as well. When I got sick in the fall of 2013 I found myself questioning the purpose of my suffering. With each new round of tests I hoped for answers to my varied symptoms. Eventually I turned everything over to God and “waited out the storm.” In the midst of my waiting I was inspired to begin writing a book. I had a theme and ideas that I excitedly captured in handwriting, on my computer and through dictation on my phone. The theme was the most intriguing part of the writing process. The concept of Our Journey With God had been stirring within me since I began my weekly emails back in 2010. Now it was taking shape in the midst of one of my most challenging life experiences.
I share this with you because out of that particular storm came a clearer sense of my life’s purpose. My ministry which is called Our Journey With God has continued to evolve. I’d like to share one aspect of it with you in light of this Gospel passage. The WITH in Our Journey With God is actually an acrostic that in my ministry stands for Willing, Intimate, Trusting and Humble.
Like the disciples who willingly followed Jesus out onto the water we must be willing to follow Him throughout our journey. We must embrace our journey with God as a process of growing more intimate and trusting of Him. That may mean we experience the pain and humiliation of disappointing Him and others.
Through it all we must remember that our destiny lies in He who truly captains the boat. For Maria and I, we were fortunate that Rowan knew what he was doing. We really could have perished that stormy day. Looking back on it now I realize that God had other plans. He always does. He was and is in control and He desires that we have faith in Him. Our Journey With God can be an indescribable trip that challenges our faith to the limits. But if we truly journey "WITH" God, no matter how stormy life gets, our destiny is secure in Him.