I was on call at our local hospital a few weeks back.
I take my turn every six weeks or so. Often those weeks pass without a single call. That week was different, though. It seemed as though every day there was a request for a chaplain. It was on my third such call that I met Marcia.
When I entered the room, she greeted me warmly as did her young adult disabled daughter and her elderly mother in a wheelchair. While her smile was genuine, her tone was agitated for as she shared with me, her challenges were great. She was in the midst of moving the family gathered in that room into a shared living situation. One where she could care for all of them. Her brother who lives halfway around the world was seriously ill and she did not know how to help him. And now her own health issues had caught up with her. She shared all of this volubly from the moment I walked into the room and right through her doctor’s visit and beyond. Finally she took a breath and asked me to pray. And so I did.
As soon as we shared the ‘amen,’ it was as though peace had overtaken the room. A peace which had been more than elusive a few moments before. And of course, this had nothing to do with the eloquence of my prayer. Rather, it seemed that Marcia was finally able to focus on the One asleep in the stern. The One who calmed the storm. The One about whose identity those first disciples could not help but wonder.
Indeed, her circumstances were exactly the same as they had been just moments before. She still is the primary caregiver to two generations all the while her own health is faltering. Her brother is still gravely ill half a world away. The storm itself still raged. And yet, somehow, everything was different.
I cannot say that this is an easy Gospel to understand. I have never seen an actual storm calmed by the speaking of a word, the gesture of a hand. At least not the sort which comes with thunder and lightning and wind. But I have seen the storms which rage within us and between us dissipated in this way. As we, like Marcia, turn our attention to the One who is with us in the boat. I surely have.
Now it is so that you and I do not have to look very far at all to realize that storms are raging around us and within us. In the small corner of the world I call home I have seen it…
- In a beloved 92 year old who took a nasty fall this week and faces months of hard recovery…
- In the grief of four different families whose journeys of loss and grief I accompany in the days to come…
- In the often hidden struggles within families as they, as we, seek to live together in kindness and patience and mutual respect…
- In the experience of racism which taints and shapes many if not most of our interactions, whether those in places of privilege know it or not…
- And yes, in the angst of a nation as we sort out who we are and how we are to be in the face of the stranger, the immigrant, the asylum seeker…
The storms rage, they surely do. And while I have little hope that Jesus who is in the boat with us will with a word or the wave of a hand make those storms disappear, I am confident that our turning toward Jesus can calm the storms which rage within us, enabling us with calm minds and open spirits to find ways to navigate the storms and yes, to begin to eliminate those which are of our own making.
And yes, I expect it all starts where Marcia was a few weeks back.
We acknowledge the storms.
We seek the care of another to come and pray with us and alongside us when we can. We rely on the gift of one another.
Most of all, we focus on the One, on Jesus, who is always in the boat with us. We trust Jesus to calm the storms within us so that we can face the ones which threaten from without.
- Do I give Jesus too little credit in my reflection? In my experience I simply have not seen Jesus calm a storm as he does on the Sea of Galilee. I have, however, known his power to calm the storms within us and between us. How about you?
- What storms threaten you? Your family? Your community? Your congregation? What difference does it make to know that Jesus is in the boat with you?
- What storms threaten us collectively as a nation? In your context, what does it mean to acknowledge those storms? As you face these storms, what does it mean for you to turn to the One who is in the boat with you? What difference might it make to experience the calm that Jesus gives within you as you address the storms out there?