“When the tides of life turn against you and the current upsets your boat, don’t waste those tears on what might have been, just lie on your back and float.” Unknown
Sometimes we feel so stuck, unable to move. We want to trust that God is still in the drivers seat, leading us forward but at times we are not sure. Things are not going as we imagined, our plans have failed and our ability to take risks is frozen. Instead we look for a place to anchor our boat out of the wind, close to the shore, to feel the sun upon our face and enjoy the picnic lunch we have packed.
We are tired of rowing against the current of life that pulls us in directions that are not predictable. We’ve been caught up in the whirlpool that sucks us in to its core, threatening to drag us under and leaving us gasping for breath.
We row to a place where it is safe. We drop anchor and decide to stay out of harms way for a while, to lie down and rest in a quiet cove, to sleep to the rhythm of the gentle waves that lap at the hulls of the vessel. This is the most wonderful place but we can’t rest for long, the tide has gone out and its time to push off before we are wedged on the rocks.
Sometimes we wonder why life turned out the way it did for us. Was it a matter of ‘wrong place, wrong time?’ Even in moments of despair and disbelief, Jesus isn’t worried. He reminds us ‘only believe,’ and responds when we ask Him to ‘help our unbelief.’ (Mark 9:24)
Sometimes I feel like Thomas who wasn’t there when Jesus turned up unexpectedly. Was it really His fault that He didn’t believe what the disciples said? How many people return from the dead to show you the holes in your hands and feet? It wasn’t the most believable of stories. I work with boys and they can be cruel. They were just as likely to say, “Ha ha, tricked you!” if Thomas had believed. Sometimes ‘seeing is believing’ but Jesus can work with that.
He turned up a second time so Thomas could get what he needed for His faith to stick. Maybe there are those who are more blessed because they believe without seeing. But maybe Thomas got a worse rap than he deserved from us Bible theologians and our pious thoughts. For me, I think I’d be just so disappointed that I hadn’t been at the meeting. Maybe I too would be saying “I’ll believe it when I see it.” (John 20)
Mostly I’m like Peter not Thomas. I’m outspoken, enthusiastic, the kid lots of teachers don’t want in their class. Personally I like these kids, we understand each other and we give each other the thumbs up of congratulations when we are pleased with ourselves that we remembered to follow the rules. After the Thomas incident I would have gone off like Peter did, maybe not fishing (I don’t fish) but I would maybe have gone for a walk in the sun, or to buy shoes, or to look for the moon in the ocean. Sometimes when you don’t understand what is going on the best thing to do is to go to the place where God is for you. (John 21)
A. W. Tozer said “Whatever comes into your heart and mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”
There are moments, days or seasons in our lives when we hit walls. Maybe through a change of career or sickness, or death, or through a circumstance you simply can’t understand and you feel like you are spinning down, down, down, like Alice. The most important thing at this time is to know who God is to you. This is the thing that will anchor you. He will be the one who stops you drifting too far from shore. The good thing about an anchor is that it doesn’t hold you completely in one place. You can drift a little. You can still feel the movement of the water; you can still enjoy the sea. Maybe it’s not a complete adventure, maybe it requires great imagination, maybe it makes you feel constrained but you are still at sea, the possibility of a voyage is still imminent.
No matter how you look at it though, a boat is a very small place. You are contained, so you might want to think very carefully about who you take with you in this season. Maybe that isn’t your choice either. Maybe like Peter you have people saying ‘we are coming with you,’ just like the other disciples did. I wonder how he felt about this? I wonder if he preferred to fish alone? I wonder if they fished in silence that night all wondering why there was nothing to catch, whether anything would ever work out any more now that Jesus had gone and died and rose again. He kept talking about leaving them permanently. How do you process that?
Sometimes I have no idea how to process my daughter getting cancer. I wonder about the future, I wonder about today, I wonder about why I thought life was going to work out differently to how it has and my old paradigms fail me. Sometimes even God is a long way off so I took great comfort this week in this story. I am glad things didn’t work out the way Thomas or Peter thought they would. I am in this passage of scripture with them, feeling what they felt. Hearing His voice in the distance and I can’t quite make out what he is saying. It sounds like He wants me to throw out my net again for another catch but this just makes me angry, Does He not know I have fished all night, that I have thrown out my nets, that I have given my all. Yet there He stands preparing the BBQ off in the distance expecting me to provide breakfast. So obediently I gather the team and I throw out the net. The fish swim in to it and the catch is such that we can barely contain it.
His Lordship again is overwhelmingly apparent and like Peter I dress for His presence. He has been there all this time, true to His word, He never leaves me or forsakes me. He doesn’t forsake Sam. He doesn’t forsake you. He works with who you are, faults and all. He has spent so much time with you; He knows how to pull the best from you. He knows your strengths and like a good teacher He is drawing out the things that will position you for your purpose and call.
He asks, “Do you love me?” three times and each time my answer is the same. Like Peter, I am saddened that He should ask me again and again. What is there left for me to give up, what does he require from me to prove that I do? My heart response is a resounding ‘yes,’ but secretly I am wishing I were more like John, the disciple Jesus loved. I’m wondering why I can’t just lean on His chest and do nothing. Perhaps this is exactly what He does require, that I become like John, to lie back in His arms and trust in His grace to carry me through. Maybe in yielding completely I’ll discover a power I do not yet understand.
Maybe if I shut my mouth, and close my eyes and let the current of His love carry me I won’t care so much about all the things that are out of my control. I hear the rebuke when I point to the path of another and ask “Lord, what about this man?” He tells me “What concern is this to you? You follow Me!”
So I decide I will just keep walking, even if that means feeding sheep in some remote place that I never imagined. Maybe one day I will really surrender and say “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Surely the goal in and through all of life is to sense that ‘All moments are key moments and life itself is grace.” Frederich Buechner
His grace nudges us forward towards simplicity. He does not want us to return to our childish ways but He wants us to come as a child. This is all about trusting, letting go and being carried.
Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote,” I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
I have a long way to go but I press forward, ready to sail again.