"Between the launch and the landing"
At the funeral yesterday, the pastor recounted the Biblical account of Jesus and His disciples crossing the lake on a dark and stormy night. As the disciples battled the raging sea, Jesus slept soundly.
Then, the Pastor said, "Somebody had sense enough to call on the One who is the Master of the Seas. Somebody had sense enough to call on the One who is the Master of the Skies. Then Jesus woke up, spoke to the wind and the waves, and the Bible says 'there was a great calm.'"
He went on to say that between the launch of the boat and the landing on the other side of life, there are furious storms. Between the launch and the landing, life seems uncertain. Between the launch and the landing, fear takes over. But between the launch and the landing, the Master of the Seas proves Himself strong and mighty, present and aware, and most importantly, between the launch and the landing, He is with us. He never leaves us alone in the boat. (I absolutely LOVE the way that black Baptist preachers, in their robes and collars, choose a phrase and work it into their sermons over and over. Chanting. Stomping. Shouting. Driving the point all the way home. In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I must also confess that I often wish I had earplugs to reduce the impact of the volume of the shouting on my innocent eardrums.)
Between the launch and the landing of my life, there have been storms. Some far more fierce than others.
The storm of growing up with three older brothers - all of whom were comfortable with the practice of torturing their younger sister. Two of their favorites stand out in my mind: 1- two brothers would hold me down while the third one tickled me, usually until I had to pee. My only defense was to train myself to stop laughing. To this day, I am not ticklish. 2 - two brothers would hold me down while the third poured water into my mouth, laughing and telling me that I had better swallow the water fast or I'd drown. I still don't like drinking water while lying on my back... not that I have ever attempted that other than with the help of my sadistic siblings.
The storm of heading off to college - my three aforementioned brothers each attended a Christian college. (I wonder about the connection between Christian colleges and the use of corporal punishment and torture. Apparently there are statistics that indicate that the more frequently one attends church, the more likely one is to support torture. I am NOT making that up. Hmmmm...) Anyway, I informed my parents that I did not want to attend a Christian college as I had my head and heart set on attending Williams. Permission denied. After a few difficult exchanges on that topic, I declared that if I were forced to attend a Christian college, I would do so only as a freshman. I would then declare my emancipation as an 18-year-old and transfer to the college of my choosing. They relented.
The storm of getting married - I met my husband at Williams College, the bastion of secular teaching and free living... hardly. Wonderful man whose skin color is not the same as mine. Let's put it this way: Stevie Wonder's song, "Ebony and Ivory," used to make us smile at each other, intertwine our fingers, and try to figure out whose fingers were ebony and whose were ivory. Not everyone was happy about our union. Not everyone in our immediate families attended our nuptials.
The storms of illness and injury - cancer, congestive heart failure, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, adult attention deficit disorder, depression, burned fingers, cut fingers requiring stitches, infertility, miscarriage, cracked teeth requiring crowns, high cholesterol, dangerously low blood pressure - have blown into, through, over and around my life and the lives of those I love most all life long. And that's just the physical stuff - my friends, family members, and I have also dealt with job loss, having to move from one state to another, bankruptcy, divorce, foreclosure, pornography addiction, loneliness, betrayal, infidelity, flooding, fire, theft, and abandonment. Mine, like yours and everyone else's, has been a stormy life.
Certainly, there have been days of smooth sailing. Sometimes days, weeks, even months on end. At those times, I celebrate the fact that I am someplace between the launch and the landing, precariously balanced between one storm and another, watching, waiting, alert, attentive, hopeful, peaceful.
But then storm clouds rise again, open, pour down rain and hail, sleet and snow, making it nearly impossible for me to remain afloat and continue believing that I will, indeed, make it to the other side. At those moments, like the twelve desperate disciples, I turn to The One I thought was in charge of it all and ask: How can you be asleep at a time like this? Don't you care that I'm drowning here? Does it matter to you that the one you love is sick? What about the promise to supply all our needs according to your riches in glory - are you not gonna keep that promise? Didn't you also promise that you would do whatever two or three agree on and asked for? We've been asking for healing for her from MS and her from bipolar disorder for years. We've be praying for a job for her for two years now. We've been begging for mercy from storms and earthquakes and tsunamis; why are they still coming? We thought you were the one, but this faith thing, this life thing isn't working out like we expected. Not even close. Are you in charge or not?
When I'm done with my pleading and crying out for help, I remember once again that I've gotta wait until my boat ride is completely over to see when and how the storms are resolved. One thing I know about boat rides is that they aren't over until the boat docks safely on the other side.
After describing fear-inducing storms yet to come and then promising them that they would always be Accompanied by Someone who would comfort, teach, guide, and strengthen His followers on their own life journeys, on our life journeys, on my life journey, Jesus told His terrified disciples (including me) this: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."