I’ve been thinking a lot about my proclivity for calm; for a life that is tame, sedate, and predictable.
Somehow, I’ve gotten the notion into my head that surely God’s desire for me would be a life of comfort and ease. God’s protection and promised presence would look like secure relationships, finances, profession, retirement, future, right? I find myself asking questions like, Can’t things just be easy? Can’t my life go the way I want it to? Why does life often feel like such a struggle?
And then I begin to wonder: if God were to answer these questions the way I want (translate: by granting me a perfect, conflict-free life) who would that god be? Surely not the one I know from scripture. Surely not a God who sleeps in the storm.
Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”
Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus said to the disciples: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Even the wind and sea obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
This is not a tame, sedate, predictable story. This is not a tame, sedate, predictable God. And if this is the God with whom I am in relationship, why would I anticipate my life to be tame, sedate, or predictable?
The truth? I’m somewhat afraid to let this narrative define my God or shape my life. If I chose to reflect on, believe in, and live by this image of God who might I become? That possibility – to be like that God: dangerous, risky, not afraid – is more than I often want to imagine or bear.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… (Marianne Williamson)
I might actually have to let the wind blow. I might actually have to let go of my incessant demand for a life of ease – and the all-too-familiar comfort of doubting God’s faithfulness when things don’t go my way (or God seems to be asleep). I might actually have to get wet!
I think, maybe, that’s what I want…
Maybe – by Mary Oliver
Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
stood up in the boat
and the sea lay down,
silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved
But you know how it is
the threshold—the uncles
the women walk away,
the younger brother begins
to sharpen his knife.
Nobody knows what the soul is.
It comes and goes
Like wind over the water—
Sometimes, for days,
you don’t think of it.
Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
one or two of them felt
the soul slip forth
like a tremor of pure sunlight
that wants to swallow everything,
gripped their bones and left them
miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
how the wind tore at the sails
before he rose and talked to it—
tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was—
a thousand times more frightening
than the killer sea.
Not maybe. Certain. This is the God I want to follow – tender, luminous and demanding, a thousand times more frightening than the killer sea. This is the God I want to reflect. And in such, no longer expecting a life that is tame, sedate, and predictable; rather, choosing the storm.