From the Pastor’s Heart

The Storms of Life
(Acts 27:18+20)

We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard… When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
This section of the newsletter is called “From the Pastor’s heart”. And so, I’d like to share with you a passage from a wonderful book called “How to survive a shipwreck: help is on the way and love is already here”, 2016, by Jonathan Martin, that really touched my heart and helped me. I hope it can do the same for you…
“It is possible to fail, and not have our faith fail us. It is possible to lose our lives, and not lose our souls. The master teacher taught us himself that it is only in losing our lives – in their ego pretensions and posturing, in their careful image constructions and neediness – that this richer, deeper, “below-the-surface” life can be found. This is the life hidden with Christ in God, where almost anything can happen at the top of things without disrupting the grace that lies in the bottom of the sea in you. This is the place in the depths where you can be cut off from your very self (as you understood it), and from the name your father gave you, and from the place where you grew up, and from the tribe that gave you language, and from the story that gave you meaning – only to find that nothing can separate you from the love of God.
When the storm is still brewing over the waters, and the sky sickens into an ominous grey-black, and you feel the electric charge in the air on your very skin, inevitably the question comes: Will I survive this? Can I make it through the storm that is coming (whatever sent it here, and however it came)?
And of course, there are many storms fierce enough to toss you, throw you, destabilize you, and scare you that do not result in shipwreck. Some storms last only for the night; some pockets of violent air are only turbulence. But some storms are more violent, more relentless, more exacting. Some winds will not be calmed; some floods will not be dammed until they have their way with you… The storms that come will test us all, and it is entirely possible one comes to you that will end in your failure before the wind and waves recede. But the Spirit in the wind whispers the words of Jesus again, inserting your own name for Simon’s: ‘I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail – and even grow stronger through your failure.’
The good news is, you are not going to die. The bad news is, the boat that has been carrying you – the vessel that has taken you from port to port, place to place, the strong and stable boat that made you feel safe on all the oceans you’ve sailed thus far – the boat will be lost. They were not going to lose their lives, but they were going to lose the boat. (Acts 27)
Losing the boat is no small thing. To lose the boat is to lose the ground beneath your feet, the stories you told yourself and others, to lose what protected you from all the elements before. To lose the boat is to lose everything that kept you afloat before, to be thrown into the vast and merciless sea now alone, with nothing left to protect you from its moody tides, the blazing sun above it, or the black-eyed creatures that lurk beneath it. You can lose your boat, lose your house with all the pictures inside it, lose your job, lose your most defining relationship.
- And still not lose you.
- And still not lose your soul.
- And still not lose your faith.
Make no mistake: You will be stripped down in the shipwreck. But you will not be lost. While I would not recommend a shipwreck to anyone, any more than I would recommend cancer, car accidents, or the plague, I can yet attest to a mysterious truth I have since heard over and over from people who have survived their own shipwrecks: On the other side of them, there is a stronger, deeper, richer, more integrated life. That on the other side of the storm that tears you to pieces is a capacity to love without doubt, to live without fear, to be something infinitely more powerful than the man or woman you were before it happened. Almost nobody who survives a shipwreck would ever sign up to do it all over again, a second time. Nobody can exactly say they were glad it happened. And yet repeatedly, I hear people say the same remarkable thing – that they also under no circumstances would choose to go back and be the person they were before. Nobody would choose to lose the loved one all over again to the unexpected illness, or lose the job they trained for years to get, or lose the relationship they invested heart and soul into….
I cannot tell you with any degree of confidence that you will not fail your test. I cannot tell you with any degree of certainty that your ship is going to make it out in one piece… I can only align myself with the greater wisdom of the Teacher and of his apostle and tell you that even though you might fail – utterly – your faith does not have to. I can tell you that even if the ship does not survive, you will. “
Storms come… Take heart; Jesus says: ”I have prayed for you.” (pg. 32-35)