I lie here on my hospital bed. It’s 4am. Painkillers and “benzos” course through my body. I await the arrival of the doctor sometime this morning to give me the news of what’s next. This is the height of uncertainty.
I told my family that I feel like I’ve been clinging to a rope, dangling from a cliff, but the rope has many knots to which I can cling. But with every bit of bad news I slip to the next knot, and I fear for how many knots remain. I forget that it’s not me clinging to a rope but Christ clinging to me.
Re-read the first two sentences of this blog and forgive me if I sound wacko.
I took the picture at the top of the page here in Houston, and I just love it. The cropped version I used for this blog theme doesn’t do the photograph justice, but it captures some nice metaphorical elements: there’s a clear path to some unknown destination, there are woods surrounding, but on either side there are roads where cars come and go and people live.
Now imagine it’s totally dark and someone has given you a pen light. And instead of a smooth, straight, cobblestone path, you can perceive that the path is windy and you can sense that danger lies ahead. You’re uncertain as to whether to remain on the path or take your chances through the forest to arrive on what must be a road, given the sounds and headlights of cars. But what if I told you that awaiting you at the end of this path is something more glorious than anything you could find out in the world that surrounds us? And what if I told you that there are many people encouraging you and a Helper to guide you? Would you walk the hard road?
Sounds obvious, but it isn’t. No one alive has ever seen what lies at the end of the path. There are stories, but it is a long journey to endure with such uncertainty, clinging to one big promise that was made over 2000 years ago.
I’ve told this story to others before, but I can’t stop thinking about the image of Christ and his disciples crossing the sea of Galilee during a torrential rain storm, as described in Mark 4: 35-41. The disciples are experiencing this mayhem, but Jesus sleeps peacefully in the back of the boat (He’s tired from all his work!). Mark says “high waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water” (Mark 4:37, NLT). Though not written, I picture a scene of panic: some frantically bailing water, maybe a couple of disciples frozen with fear, and others attempting to rouse Jesus, shouting “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (4:38). You get the sense that Jesus is annoyed but he silences the storm with a word and then rebukes his disciples by asking them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (4:40).
Again, picture the scene. What is “doubting” Thomas doing? Looking out at the storm and thinking it’s the end?Peter, Christ’s close but oft mistaken friend, shouting commands to others in order to save themselves? And perhaps John, the “disciple that Jesus loved” waiting patiently for whatever happens? I’m obviously conjecturing mightily here.
The crazy thing is, they had Jesus with them! They’d already seen him perform many miracles, and yet there was fear and doubt.
Can you relate to this? I certainly can.
I like to think of my brothers and sisters in Christ all being on a boat with me out on a sea. We celebrate the good days (there’s plenty of food and sunscreen) and we cling together during the difficult times. But in those difficult moments, who or what do we put our faith in? If you’re one to fixate on the problem at hand, despair may set in. I you’re like me, you tend to look around you at all of the people you love and who love you and find comfort there. Maybe some will just want to jump ship. We all share, as did the disciples, these tendencies.
Because if we look in the back of the boat, there’s no one there sleeping who we just need to waken to solve our problems.
But our hope and the faith that we’ve been given tell us that He is there. In his spirit. All around us. Not necessarily to solve our current problems, but to encourage us and remind us that our ultimate problem, that of the destinies of our souls, has already been solved. An immutable result of his death and resurrection. Praise God.
What’s been most interesting about writing this blog while I battle cancer is that I’m getting comments, texts, and phone calls from so many people, many of whom, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have thought were believers. They tell me they’re praying for me. You want to know this person who is in complete control of the raging seas of our lives? He is listening to our prayers, is knowable in the living Bible, and desires our worship in His church.
My hope is that there are some new people in the boat with us. That the prayers they offer up have a profound affect on them. That they’ll visit a local church and experience what it’s like to belong to a body. As Pastor Don Aldin once said, belief and belonging go hand-in-hand. They reinforce each other.
Thanks to Pastor Rob Edwards of Mercy Presbyterian in Lynchburg Va for his thought provoking sermon on Mark 4:35-41. If interested, I can probably provide it.
Thanks for all the love you’re showing me and my family!