A Ride in the Boat

She was sitting  on the dock all alone. She was enjoying the peacefulness and feeling the thrill of “being away from it all”. The water was glassy and the sun shone brightly overhead. She often meets with Jesus at times like this, so when she saw Him standing in the distance she invited Him to come sit with her. They sat in silence for awhile just enjoying each other’s presence. Then she offered to take Him for a ride in the boat that was tethered on the dock. She had a favorite spot just around the bend where she sometimes went to escape the reality of her life. Her job of being an elementary school teacher and a single parent of two beautiful daughters sometimes made her feel more like a machine than a person.

As they were getting into the boat, Jesus moved towards the steering wheel and asked if He could drive her to a special place. She sat down on the seat behind Him and looked forward to an adventure with Jesus. She didn’t know where He is taking her, but they have spent a lot of time together and she trusts Him. Besides she has no choice but to trust Him because she can’t swim and He has control of the boat. She loves boat rides so she lets the wind blow through her hair and enjoys the warmth of the sun on her back.

After a while she looks behind her and realizes they are getting further and further from the shoreline. The water gets choppier when they get further from the shore and off in the distance she can see a huge thunder cloud gathering momentum. She knows they will never get back to the shore before that storms hits. She left her children on the shore thinking she would be right back. Now, she is feeling quite anxious. This doesn’t feel like fun anymore. If anything happens to her, her daughters will be without a mother. They are teenagers and still need the guidance a parent has to offer. The anxiety of the unknown is beginning to feel like torture. She would much rather be enjoying the comfort and safety of the shoreline.

Jesus gently speaks her name and turns to look at her. His eyes are so gentle and caring that she can’t take her eyes off of Him. He tells her that if she will keep her eyes on Him, He will take her through the storm. She believes Him as His eyes remind her that they have been through many storms before. She is flooded with peace in the realization that her children are being taken care of in ways she can not see. This adventure is for her and somehow she knows this will make her a better mother,a better teacher, a better friend, a better christian.

The waves are becoming larger and the boat hits an especially big wave. It leaps forward while the water splashes over the bow and into her face. She feels her anxiety rise again. He gently calls her to keep her eyes on Him. It is amazing how He knows her so well that He can sense when her anxiety is overtaking her faith. When she looks at Jesus, the storm doesn’t seem so scary. She knows He is in control and He has the power to calm the storm or to keep her safe in the midst of it. While keeping her eyes on Jesus she begins to enjoy the thrill of the ride.

 

The Storm

There is something exhilarating – life giving- to be on an adventure with Jesus. She  reflected on what was going to be an ordinary day with a few relaxing moments. She had escaped the housework along with her parental duties to sit on the dock to soak in some sun before tackling the laundry. Jesus met her on the dock and turned her escape into an amazing adventure. Now He was steering the boat away from the safety of the shore and out into the deep water.

The scary part of being with Jesus is never knowing where He is going. And then there is the problem of the big clouds gathering in the distance. She knows they will ride straight into that storm. She contemplated asking Jesus to turn the boat around, but she had been with Him before and knew this would make a good story if she survived.

As they move further from the harbor, the waves get bigger. Jesus gently says to her,“Keep your eyes on me, not on the storm”. She tries she really does. Every time a another wall of water crashes against the boat and sprays her face with cold water, it startles her and soon all she can think about is how fast her heart is beating. She holds her breathe and tries not to scream out loud. She wants to trust the One who is in the driver’s seat, but panic is setting in.

The clouds are dark, ominous and threatening, nothing like the wisps of fluffy cotton balls she was looking at from the dock. They give her an erie feeling as she looks up at them. The foggy abyss envelopes them and she can’t see Jesus’ face. Every once in a while, there is a flash of lightning and then she can catches a quick glimpse of His eyes through the lonely darkness. He is calm and relaxed and has His eyes locked on her. The evening air feels more like a black hole after each flash of lightning. As the storm comes closer, the lightning strikes more frequently and she catches more glimpses of His face. He is not worried at all. His face is turned toward the storm with a quiet authority. He seems to be enjoying the storm. Even as the boat is tossed side to side and the waves are huge, His expression never changes.

He knew where He was taking her and she feels loved to know that she has been chosen to go on this wild ride with Him. She choose to get into the boat and she wants to be with Him. She needs Him in the storm. Even when she doesn’t see Him, she needs Him.

 

Peace after the storm

She kept her eyes focused on Jesus and just as quickly as the storm had started, it passed. She sat shaking from the adrenaline rush and began to realize that she was soaked from the big waves that had ascended on the boat in the storm. The bright warm sun was now starting to disappear behind the horizon. A few stars began to make their presence known in the evening sky. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and huddled on her seat trying to make herself small.

Jesus beckoned her to move closer to Him. She leaned forward as if to move and then pulled her shoulders back. She looked closely at Jesus and her head went down. She wanted to be close to Him but He was so confident and she was so inadequate. He whispered her name and she lifted her head slightly to look at His face. His eyes were filled with such love and acceptance.

He seemed to sense the struggle within her and patiently waited while she decided what she would do. He was dry and safe. She was wet, cold and vulnerable. She would be foolish not to move into the warmth He offered. With another quick glance into His eyes, she moved from her isolation into the warmth of His arms. They sat together enjoying each others presence as the sun set and the moon and stars decorated the sky above them. It didn’t matter that she felt small and inadequate, all she could think about is how safe and capable He was. She began to sing a song she had known since childhood. “Oh how I love Jesus. Oh how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me!”

Before she knew it, they were at the dock and she got out of the boat with a renewed energy and peace. She left the dock and headed towards her house. She found her daughters asleep in their beds and gave them a kiss on the forehead. She went to sleep knowing that Jesus was in control of the storm.

In the morning, after the usual rush of making lunches and getting breakfast on the table, she dropped her daughters off at High School and headed to her Elementary School. As the students arrived at school, she gave them a hug and checked in with a few of them. Asking how their evening was and exchanging stories about the family dogs. She went about her day resting in the knowledge that ordinary is made extraordinary when living with gratitude for everyday occurrences.

After experiencing the storm, day to day events seemed quiet and almost boring, but she knew that another storm would come and she would need to be prepared. She smiled in gratitude knowing that she was stronger, less afraid and safe. 

The Tornado

It had been a few days of normal routine and she was tired from being too busy. As she headed for home after a hectic day working with students, she noticed how calm the air felt. Almost stifling, but not hot. She had not talked to Jesus since her time with Him on the boat so she quickly breathed a prayer. “Lord, help me face whatever is in front of me”. She didn’t stop to think if she believed that her prayer was heard or even if she felt prepared for what lay ahead. She was at peace knowing He was in control and would never leave her. In the back of her mind she could sense that a storm was coming but the horizon was clear. Maybe I just need a good sleep in order to gain perspective.

She got lost in her thoughts as she walked the thirty minutes home. Somehow she sensed that she should look up and that is when she saw it coming. A cloud was forming and was beginning to rotate. The funnel was developing right in front of her. It wasn’t very wide but it was about to hit her house where her daughters were. Although she was concerned, she had no reason to be worried because God always protected His chosen. She was chosen because she had spent some great times with Jesus through a few storms. She looked around but Jesus was no where to be seen so this was going to be no big deal. She knew He would change the course of the tornado just before it hit her family. He promised to protect her and  she would show Him what a good believer she was and laugh about this close call later.

But the tornado was still swirling in the direction of her house lifting debris off the ground. She started running towards, but she was still a fair distance from her house. She stood  gazing in unbelief as it touched down on her house and then lifted and sat just above the rooftop. She sat down on the side of the road. How had she watched the tornado destroy her house and yet had never felt the wind. She had no time for reflection. Her daughters were in the house and she needed to get to them. She forgot about how tired she was and rushed inside. Debris from the impact of the wind had fallen on her youngest daughter. She was covered in cuts and blood and was laying on the floor with a piece of glass protruding from her abdomen. The older sister came stumbling into the room as tears streamed down her cheeks. Both girls were in shock. She kicked into crisis mode and wrapped her bleeding daughter in a blanket. Then the three of them huddled in the corner.They could hear a sound like a freight train  outside as a second  tornado was touching down. She knew her house could not withstand another strike. She wondered why the house was still standing and then realized that they were in the eye of the tornado. She gathered her daughters close and whispered, “Everything is going to be okay.” Just as suddenly as the storm started it lifted and the sun came out.

First came the elation feeling after having survived a traumatic event, then as reality sunk in she became aware that her daughter needed medical attention. Finding a strength she never knew she had, she took her wounded daughter  to the hospital and sat beside her waiting for the doctor.

“It doesn’t look good. We will do what we can to help her.” Those were not the words she was hoping to hear. Where was the peace she experienced a few short days ago? Where was Jesus? She needed Him and He wasn’t coming to meet with her. Was it really true that He would never leave her? She needed a miracle and supernatural strength to make it through the night and Jesus was nowhere to be seen. Even though her older daughter wasn’t hurt physically, she needed care to help her deal with this crisis. She curled up in a ball and stared into space. This was way more than she could deal with. After a few hours, love for her daughters enabled her to get up and move forward. She didn’t know if she was numb or at peace.

Assessing the damage

She went through her day in a daze. She didn’t speak to many people and when she did it was like she was telling a story from someone else’s life. Making decisions was so hard. It took energy even to think clearly for a few minutes. A short while ago, she had endured the storm on the lake with Jesus. She had come out stronger and more prepared for whatever lay ahead, but she did love her comfort and looked forward to relaxing after “passing the test”. Then just when she began to feel normal again, the tornado had struck her house. She hadn’t even repaired the damage from the destruction when her daughter was brutally attacked.

How could he just walk in and take what wasn’t his? We had opened our home to him and invited him in as a family friend. The Daughter was vulnerable and looking for love. He said he loved her and would always take care of her. The Daughter needed to hear those words (don’t we all?) and she received the words like life. Before the Daughter knew it, he had taken her innocence and then turned on her and blamed her for all his faults. And they were many. He was hurt and she was full of love. The Daughter thought if she loved him enough, he would change. But the more she gave to him, the more violent he became. At first it was only words to make the Daughter feel less than, but soon it progressed to physical pushing. Now the Daughter lay on the hospital bed waiting for the busy doctors to come talk to her. 

She wanted to blame herself, but  she had always done everything she could to protect her daughter. Maybe there was something more she could have done, but she didn’t know what it was. There wasn’t enough time to learn everything she needed to know to be a good parent. Jesus promised to help her and walk with her. Where was he? Why hadn’t he protected her daughter? She wanted to be angry with His lack of provision, but she needed Him too much to risk isolating herself from Him. She needed to spend time with Him, but there were so many ‘things’ that needed to done immediately to save her home. She took His words with her, but just wasn’t able to carve out quiet time with Him. When she did take a few minutes to sit down, she fell asleep as exhaustion took over her body. In her anguish, she whispered, “Help me!” Suddenly, just as the waves of the storm had splashed over the boat and soaked her a few months before,  she was washed in a supernatural peace. Life as her little family had known it was forever changed, but they would survive and move on.

She gathered her daughter in her arms and they began to talk of dreams for the future.The loss was still too raw to talk about, but there was hope for healing. As they talked, the chains of fear dropped off and things that seemed impossible didn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. He tried to destroy them and they turned his angry energy into energy to create new dreams.They prayed that he would find peace and freedom from his fear and anger.

The roof of the house needed to be redone.The house had slipped on the foundation,but the foundation was solid. With help from the contractor, they repositioned the house on the foundation. There was a lot of minor repairs to be done on the inside, but remarkably there was no structural damage done to the interior. As they repaired the damage from the storm, they sang and talked about what the future would hold. Although it wasn’t clear, it was full of hope and excitement. They kept themselves busy with all the plastering and painting that needed to done.At night,they went to sleep exhausted but feeling rewarded for their efforts.They seldom spoke of the loss, but it was always on their minds.

 

Rest

As her daughters slept and healed, she went out to meet with Jesus. She remembered His promising words. ““I will never fail you or abandon you.” She had not taken time to meet with Him even though she felt His presence. Now she needed to talk face to face with Him.

She sat on the dock and reflected on the day He had taken her for a boat ride in the storm. She lived through the storm even though she felt like she was losing her mind.  She needed to look at Him now. She was losing the image of His eyes looking at her.

She waited. Her mind wondered off to her to-do list. Focus. She looked in the distance to see if He was coming. She waited. Her mind wondered off to the time she held her daughter for the first time. Her anxiety started to rise again. She had made so many mistakes. Accusing voices nattered to her heart. “Who do you think you are, trying to be a parent?” “Who do you think you are, talking face to face with Jesus? He only looks at purity and you are not pure.” Her head dropped to her chest. Her shoulders slumped over. Her fists clenched. Not this time.

She spoke boldly to the air in front of her. “I know I am nothing. I know I am not adequate. But God is all I need and I need to see His face right now because He accepts me for who I am and fills me with Himself.”

She stood up. She straightened her back with her shoulders back. And walked toward the figure moving toward her. She met Jesus under a tree and wrapped her arms around her. “Just hold me.” she whispered into his chest.

She felt His strength and embraced His control. They walked toward the water and sat on the dock dangling their feet in the water.

“Who were you talking to?” he asked.

She knew He saw who she was talking to. She took some time to think about her answer. “I don’t know its name but it finds me when I am not with you.”

“It has walked with you for a long time.”

“I used to enjoy its presence. It kept me from feeling lonely.”

“It also kept you from me.”