Saturday, April 20, 2013

No Nice Winds

Take a minute and ponder this painting. What does it speak to you?

Be Calm by Sieger Köder

This is what life in the slums feels like to me, much of the time.

The wind is roaring. The waves are looming. The sky is dark. We aren't swamped. Yet. But it feels like it could happen at any moment.

And what do we have? A broken oar. A bucket. Meager tools, at best.

Jesus is in the boat... but it doesn't seem like he's doing anything.

Before I went to Thailand for two weeks of meetings and conferences, this is pretty much how I felt. The boat hadn't sunk, we hadn't crashed, but the storm was raging. We were rowing and bailing for all we were worth, but it didn't seem to be making much difference.

Even the meetings themselves felt a bit stormy. Two weeks full of seminars, decision making, conversations, and a whirlwind of joyful reunions and meeting many new, fantastic people doing great work. Wonderful, but exhausting.
The disciples wake Jesus, distressed. And he's... disappointed? "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" What were they supposed to do?
I think, before I went on this trip, I was just hoping that the storm would stop. "If only I can just hold on long enough, it will calm down."

And then one of our elders led us in a devotion on John 11, the resurrection of Lazarus. It takes place right in the midst of this incredibly challenging season. They had just left town to avoid being stoned, a close friend falls sick and dies, Jesus timing doesn't make any sense. The elder told us, "no nice wind is going to blow us where we want to go."

Everything is going wrong, it's confusing, and it's totally unclear what's happening or what God is up to. And then, right in the midst of it all falling apart: new life! Not after all the hard things end. But in the middle. And it only really gets harder for Jesus and the disciples from there until the crucifixion. (Which is again followed by new life!)

It's right in the midst of the stormy season that life comes out of death.
No nice wind is going to blow us where we want to go.
Just to hear this wise, older man speak that truth changed something in me.

I don't have to hunch over in the storm, bracing my shoulders against the gusts, keeping my head down. I don't have to just wait for a brighter, better day. I can live in the Kingdom, looking for new life out of death, right in the middle of the storm.

I can accept the storm. It isn't going to stop storming. At least, not any time soon.

Sure we get breaks. Rest. Quiet. Still waters. But if we're going to follow Jesus, we're going to end up in the storm. Probably over and over again.

There's a lot of freedom in accepting the storm. Freedom to accept with thanks the many, many good things happening. And freedom to trust God with the uncertain and bad parts, too.

So what are the disciples supposed to do in the midst of the storm?

Maybe they're supposed to wake Jesus, but without fear. Or maybe they're just supposed to keep on rowing. In trust. Trust that, with Jesus in the boat, it's going to be ok.

Or maybe they're supposed to sing.

Yes, that sounds crazy. But while we were reflecting on this painting in Thailand, I realized, well, those disciples look like they could be totally scared witless. Or they could, just possibly, be singing.

And, once we got back, it was right into the midst of the storm again. We have to move because of a dispute between our old landlords and new ones (thankfully we can move right across the hallway). A teammate's neighbor attempted suicide. A neighbor spent three days in the hospital after being bitten. Another neighbor lost a job that had seemed so promising.

It isn't going to stop storming. But that can't stop me from singing while I bail out the boat.


Karen Marie said...

It's really good to hear from you. Thankful for this reflection, very moving.

merhiser said...

Love this Kenny and glad there is some comfort in your storms.