ACTS 27: 30-32
Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.
Desperate times call for desperate measures or so it seemed in this harrowing account of Paul’s journey to Rome. Despite his warnings, the ship stayed the course in the midst of threats of stormy weather. This decision put the entire crew at risk. The sailors recognized an opportunity to escape through an out of sight lifeboat but Paul advised against it- stating that all would be lost if these few men were let go. Surprisingly, the Centurion and soldiers in charge of Paul ( who was their prisoner!) listened to him. They cut the ropes and the sailors’ escape plan went floating away.
This account that comes towards the end of Paul’s life always fascinates me. Despite being a prisoner he appears to be in charge. We see no one else stepping up to navigate decisions in this storm. Paul’s confidence certainly didn’t come because of a title or position. It didn’t come because he had vast experience in captaining ships and organizing crews. It didn’t come from watching a YouTube video he could quickly google when the storm clouds rolled in. It came from his God that had remained faithful from the day they met on the way to Damascus. He had 100% God-confidence and that had always served him well.
Similar to the apostle Paul, ALL of us are being asked to unexpectedly navigate our own ships in an unprecedented storm. And as you may have heard many times as I have, we are all in the same storm but very different boats.
The same storm.
VERY DIFFERENT BOATS. Hmm…
Some of our boats are filled with small children we are being asked to educate at home while continuing full time jobs. Some of our boats hold job layoffs and loss of income. Some of our boats include increased income because unemployment pays more than our work. Some of our boats include separation from aging parents. We may relate to others in similar boats but there are days where their storm seems easier and they are navigating the storm better. Other times our storm seems lighter and we get judgmental about the challenge others appear to be having. Not a lot of black and white in this one. We find our selves in a dangerous place when we start to compare boats or even start hoping in and out of the ones surrounding ours. Let me explain.
I woke up Tuesday morning feeling fantastic. It was a gorgeous morning with promise of the glory continuing. I felt rested from a good night sleep in a room cooled by the outside air. Don’t you love sleeping with the windows open? There were several events planned for my day, including a virtual game night with my daughter and son in law in Indiana, that I was looking forward to. I headed for my coffee and some time with God in my morning bible study. It was wonderful.
And then it all changed.
As I put down my journal I picked up my phone …. and started scrolling… and then I started hopping… boat hopping if you will. I saw post after post of people in the same storm as me but very different boats. Not everyone had woken up with the same delight for their day as I had. I read about people struggling. I read funny memes. I read a few blogs. And my joy was gone. Boat hopping is exhausting. When I read the mom posts of 2020 seniors having a hard day as they continued mourning the loss of things that wouldn’t be for their child… I thought…. ” Oh I should probably feel more sad today.” ( NOTE: I have felt incredibly saddened by the losses of my class of 2020 daughter – shed more than one tear. But I wasn’t there on Tuesday). I saw posts of friends that have the virus and thought “Wow – I should be so much more productive – I’m healthy!” With each post I hopped …. out of my boat and into one not intended for me. My heart and soul had boarded the emotions roller coaster and I was on a full out ride of steep hills and tight cork screw twists. When I realized my mistake and the ride came to a stop I had a decision to make. I had to stop the boat hopping. It was serving no one and it certainly wasn’t honoring God. I had taken my eyes off of all I had been grateful for and my head and heart felts scattered and unsure.
Like God’s advice through Paul in Acts 27 – I believe he wants us, you and me, to stay in the boat. In our respective boats. He wants you in the boat he has placed you in, that he planned for you long before you were born. He wants you with your people, all your people, through the entirety of this storm. The good news is your ability to navigate your placement has nothing to do with your years of experience, your strengths, your weaknesses, your enneagram number, or your Myers-Briggs, but everything to do with our God who put you …. In that boat.
All through scripture we see God calling the seemingly ill-equipped to carry out his plans. More than one person questioned his wisdom when he reached out with a job offer: Moses, Gideon, Abram…. So it’s ok if you do too.
Never before in the history of mankind has it appeared that the playing field is so level. No one has walked this path before or sailed this storm. No matter how many years we’ve lived – there is not one person professionally trained or otherwise that has wisdom grown from this specific type of experience. Always before in the history of mankind has there been a God that promises wisdom, peace and answers. Always before in the history of mankind has there been a God that can back up his promises with evidence of his power through a sacrifice so great – the sending of an only son to OVERCOME death and the grave. This same God, the father of the Savior of the world is with you in your boat. He knew this storm was coming. He knew you would need to be right where you are, even if the current round of waves feels too big and too strong.
Each of our days in the sea of this storm will look different. They emotions we each feel are real. I’ve heard it said the greatest gift we can give each other right now is to believe each other. To be ok with days that others are sad and you are happy. And to be ok when you are struggling to function and others are setting the world on fire. Same storm, different boats….. all navigated by our all powerful, all knowing, unchanging, loving God.
If these words find you ready to climb out, jump over, cannon ball out of your boat…. I urge you to stay. The middle of the storm, in the boat God has placed you…..it’s the safest place you’ll ever be.