You’d think a person (who shall remain nameless) would learn to carry an umbrella, especially at this time of year, when the high temperatures clash with low pressure, and the cool breezes of autumn provoke the lazy heat of summer. You’d think that, having experienced sudden rain storms for almost three weeks in a row, this person would remember to always have an umbrella in the car. You would be wrong.
Perhaps you, unlike this person who shall remain nameless, would learn that a clear sky can’t promise you anything. But, unfortunately, in the case of this individual, that lesson has never sunk in. Which is why I’ve found myself standing in a parking lot with rain dripping off of my nose while wrestling two kids into their car seats — not once, not twice, but three times in a row.
Are you like me? Maybe. Though I’d hazard a guess that we’ve all been that person who heads out the door unprepared for the storms that will cross our path.
Such is the nature of our world: we can’t always be ready for everything we meet. We can’t always control the tempests that come our way — which puts us in the very same boat as Jesus’ disciples.
For all they knew, this journey across the Sea of Galilee would be like any other, not smooth sailing, surely, but not this. This was different. The wind snapped at their hands, the rain stung their faces, and the waves rose higher and higher. Nothing but thin boards stood between them and the fathomless depths.
Worse than all that, though, was the fear. The helplessness. No feat of strength could save them. No carefully constructed plan could rescue them. They were at the mercy of the elements, which did not know and did not care that 12 lives might end that night.
Trapped aboard that fragile vessel, the disciples faced the heart-wrenching, gut-twisting fact of their own mortality. Of their own limits. Something we’ve all encountered in our own way and in our own time: you don’t have to be in the ocean to know what it feels like to drown.
Maybe it was the difficult work conversation that drastically changed your career. Or maybe it was the same fight replaying night after night at home. Or maybe it was the doctor who couldn’t look you in the eye when he said there was nothing more to be done. The storm clouds gather, the temperature drops, and before we know it, the proverbial waters are up to our neck.
What we wouldn’t give at those moments to run away, to escape the storms without, which are so often accompanied by the storms within; for the rain as it falls reveals much, much that we might otherwise be free to ignore.
We may once have believed that our own strength or our own ingenuity or simply the sheer force of our will would see us through anything and everything. But at moments of crisis or at times when the burdens we bear just get to be too much, that illusion will be torn away, and we will see and we will feel how small and weak and helpless we are.
“When evening came . . . the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.”
Broken open, we, like the disciples in that frail craft, close our eyes and bow our heads, waiting for the waves to descend, waiting for the sound of wood cracking and water rushing, followed by silence.
But at that moment, Someone speaks.
At that moment, Someone walks toward us, unhindered by the waves, unafraid of the storm, raising a hand, saying, “Be of good cheer, I AM.”
When the winds blow and the fires rage, when the earth quakes and all you can see is how wrong everything has gone: Listen. Listen. God is there, the stillness the sign of his presence, his wholeness revealed in the nothingness, in the cry of our hearts, “Lord, save me!”
Our Lord is always the same, always drawing near to the broken-hearted and the needy. Always ready to help those who call upon his name. For as we do so, as we tell his story, as we allow the Word of the Lord to dwell in us richly, we come to expect, to hope for our salvation, which is life with Christ now, union with him, rest in him, security in his love no matter what winds may blow.
No one can prepare for all that is to come. No one, truly, can be ready for the trials and tribulations that will come our way — because we cannot know what the future holds. Ours is not the power to command the seas to still and the rains to cease. All we can do is look for the one who walks on the waters as though they were dry land. He is coming our way, even now. Even now, he is here, holding out his hand, ready to join you in the darkness or in the light of day, ready to bring you in safety ot the other side — for only he knows the way.
When they stepped back into the boat, the winds ceased. The rain stopped. And the disciples looked at Jesus: “Surely, you are the Son of God.” AMEN.