2. A boat divided will sink

2020, I believe will go down in history as one of the most difficult years of a lifetime. Hopefully, in the future, many people will also remember that 2020 was the year of their greatest growth. Much good can arise out of painful and unwelcome circumstances. I know because I’ve witnessed this truth in my personal life.

And I believe I’ve earned the right to state matter-of-factly, MUCH GOOD can come from great pain.

For some the slow down has been a needed time out, which admittedly most of us would not have taken voluntarily. Truly, we are quite unaware of how fast we’re spinning because everyone around our orbit is spinning as fast or faster.

For others, wounds yet to be dealt with have surfaced and have become unmanageable. The stress and fear of uncertain times have caused the unhealthy coping mechanisms to spin completely out of control. The festering infection must be dealt with before it becomes fatal. That’s not drama. It’s just TRUE!

Hopefully, down the road, individuals, couples and yes, even whole families will be able to mark this time as one of healing, repentance and reconciliation.

What is becoming blatantly obvious, as many of us venture out into the public square, is that people are divided. The new normal doesn’t feel normal or good. On every side of every issue we’re wondering who is right and who is wrong. Who’s to blame and who will fix this mess. Everyone is feeling the raw hurt and loss of most everything normal and secure – even if it was false security.

When my dear man and I first stepped into our boat with Jesus, it felt much more like an exciting adventure ahead. Admittedly, we had some trepidation, and some honest questions. Yet, we were willing to step into another unknown, and in the end we would be glad. We knew that times on the boat {learning to sail} might prove challenging, but adventure with Jesus has always brought us growth, strength and deeper intimacy.

Because we had previously lived through some deeply trying times in career, church and family life we stepped into our training boat with confidence in our Teacher. He’s been our Teacher for a long, long time, and He’s never steered us wrong. Never! Still, it didn’t take long for us to realize that Jesus had determined we were now ready for the advanced training course.

May I state for the record, once again, our trust in Him as Teacher and our confidence in ourselves and each other has been severely tested.

The wounds in our very human hearts have again been laid bare as we began to spend many more hours in a day together. I had grown accustomed to my cherished quiet hours in the house alone before my dear man walked through the door from work. That was my time to putter, relax, listen to music, pray, read and process my day. Okay, let me just be honest, I simply liked being able to do whatever I wanted to do – alone. I cherished ‘me time’.

Suddenly, we were both home. Together. Alot. No more quiet alone time. I bristled at the loss of ‘me’ time and the invasion of ‘my’ space.

He didn’t want to be home either. My dear man had never planned to retire. Work was his passion and pastime. He was resentful of his lack of work, and was frustrated with the huge gap of time needing to be filled with productivity from morning to evening.

Realization set in as we tried to balance ourselves in the boat of our new normal. Neither of us were happy. None satisfied. I was working outside our home, which was all he longed for. And he was doing what my heart desired; staying home. Like seasick sailors we were topsy turvy and nothing seemed to settle the rocking. We struggled desperately to find the calm.

We were in the boat together. For better. For worse. For richer. For poorer. In health. In distress. With Parkinson’s. Without career. Missing the main income. We had stepped into the boat together and neither of us knew how to sail.

Our differences seemed exaggerated as time in the boat droned on day after training day without so much as a breeze to lift our sails. Too many times I allowed my insecurities to control my emotions. I pointed a finger in his direction and demanded to know when he was going to learn to sail so that we could get moving again.

I knew I was wrong. The hurt in my dear man’s eyes pierced my conscience, but the empathy in Jesus’ eyes over our broken humanity pierced my heart. I confessed my wrong. I was forgiven. Yet, I didn’t know how to resolve the helpless feelings of being adrift on the open ocean with a person who didn’t know how to sail.

Many times on certain days I completely lost sight of the fact that our Teacher was in the boat with us. He wasn’t going to let us sink. Or would He?

I cried out to God for help. We had already overcome some major marital hurdles and I didn’t want to fail this current test of oneness. Our boat was divided. And this lack of unity, we knew all too well, had the power to destroy even the most committed souls.

Jesus. Help!

He did. He reminded me to seek His face. He gave me a hunger for His word in which He reminded me to confess what is true, forgive what hurts, and love like He loves me.

We weren’t getting out of this boat any time soon it appeared quite obvious. So we needed to find ways to communicate, design rules of fair play and negotiate together the rhythm that would keep us afloat.

Now as I look at the condition of our western society trying to crawl out of a pandemic and all but total economic shutdown, I remember our personal learning curve. The ways our country has fractured and split in this year of 2020 are too numerous now to even count. We’ve fallen off the cliff of simply being divided down the middle of red or blue. We’ve splintered as a society into innumerable beliefs, thoughts, values and judgments.

What will keep us from self destruction as a society? A boat divided will sink.

All I know to do for our country, our state, and our local community in the turbulence is to cry out…

Jesus. Help!

You might think me a simpleton. A Pollyanna. You might think me ridiculous and you might not come back to read my words. That’s okay.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
Psalms 107:31‭-‬32 NIV

I know what I’ve experienced is true. Jesus has always been faithful when I’ve been eager to give up. He’s always had answers to my questions and He’s always had solutions to my problems.

I’m asking for Jesus to help us, as people He created, to be patient with one another, to forgive readily and to be kind. I’m asking Him to have mercy on us and to teach us to be merciful toward others. I’m asking Him to open our eyes to His goodness and generosity, which will surely cause us to reflect His goodness and generosity to others.

Jesus. Teacher in the boat. He’s been teaching us to sail together, my dear man and myself. He’s teaching us how to sail and not sink. Guess what? Five years into training, we’re really getting the hang of it.

Yes, five years. Training takes time, especially for us slow learners.

I know our Teacher will do it for you too. I believe Jesus will show Himself faithful to you and your household. I feel sure He will step into your boat. He’ll stay with you even when you’re not sure whether He will let you sink.

So, what will you do? How about crying out?

Jesus. Help!

~Lisa

Trust is the anchor holding me in the boat

 

I imagine a crusty white-bearded fisherman searching the horizon from high above the deck, and suddenly he yells comforting words:

Two years out and all’s well!

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With the new year, my husband and I embarked on our third year of his involuntary retirement.  I have no words to describe how grateful I am (still) for his discipline to store away savings in times of abundance.  Without his ‘Joseph-like’ dedication to prepare ahead for a coming famine, I don’t know where we would be right now.

God, by His grace, had prepared our hearts for a lean time.  Through prayerful listening I felt it would be at least two years before we would experience a breakthrough. We’ve several times before traveled this road of job change and loss through buy-outs and acquisitions.  This fork in the road, however, has some additional obstacles otherwise known as age and health.

Truly though, as we look full circle around our current circumstances, God’s faithfulness from the past shines brightly like a beacon of  hope before us.  And nothing, not aging or health challenges, are too hard for God!

When I focus my eyes on Jesus, I do feel calm.  I do feel secure in His presence.  As I spend time with Jesus, in His Word and in our conversations, He assures me that we (my husband and I) are right where we are supposed to be.

Truly though, as we look full circle around our current circumstances, God’s faithfulness from the past shines brightly like a beacon of hope before us.

Yet, one moment out in the world, with all the voices and choices and recommendations from all well meaning people who care about us, and I can easily find myself – well, honestly, bothered!  Then I find myself wanting to know, “How much longer, Lord?”.

Maybe people are right. Maybe I need to do something more.  Maybe I should look for more professional employment.  Maybe I should… What if…  And the wrestling begins all over again.

I wonder… have you ever been here?  Are you now?  Well, here’s what I did…

Jesus, where are You?

I grew weary of the wrestling and spinning and the voices and the questions and doubts. Honestly, I love that place of surrender!  As difficult as it is for me to get there sometimes, it is the best feeling to drop all the baggage I’ve agreed to carry and crumple at the feet of Jesus.

Finally, submitted deep in my soul, I asked Jesus to give me His perspective – as much as my finite mind can comprehend.  I asked Him to draw me a picture of how He sees our current circumstances.

Jesus answered this request almost immediately.  I began to see, in my mind’s eye, a boat bobbing on the water.  There was no storm, no daunting waves or howling wind, and in the back of the boat I sat.  My husband was seated at the front of the boat.  We were just bobbing on the calm water.

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Yes, that’s it!  That is exactly what my life feels like right now!

However, the longer I pondered this picture in my mind, the frustration welled up inside me again.  That bothered feeling came welling up from deep within even as I sat with Jesus and His picture.  Soon I heard myself asking, “How long, O Lord, are we going to bob on this water not really going anywhere?”

This was it.  This was my life in a picture – feelings and all.  After a few days of thinking on this picture I began to see water splashing about my feet inside the boat.

Again, I picked up my conversation with Jesus.  Anxiety, fear, and frustration began to increase as I talked with Him…

Jesus there’s water coming in the bottom of the boat.  Doesn’t my husband know there’s water coming in the boat?  Are we going to sink?  Is he just going to sit in the front of the boat and let us go under?

I felt anger rising from that deep place in my soul.  I recognized the symptoms; that old ouchy place that’s been torn open once again by current circumstances.  So, I went to visit my flesh and blood Dad for advice.

“Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.” Proverbs 16:20

St Augustine fort

Godly sorrow…

As I sat with my Dad over lunch recounting this vision of my husband and I in the boat, my dad responded with truth; “You don’t trust him to take care of you.”  The words to match the emotion had been eluding me, but when my Dad spoke it, I knew it was true.

I was ashamed to admit it.  I was afraid our boat was sinking and I didn’t trust my husband to save me.  There it was – the response I learned as a young child – fight for myself.

I confessed to my Dad (as if he didn’t know), “I’m not very good at sitting on my hands. I’m a fighter!”  My Dad grinned ear to ear and proudly confirmed, “And you’re a good one too.”  Beyond that my Dad hugged me and assured me, “God’s got this.  You’re going to be OK – eventually!”

Sunset Key LargoAs I drove home from my parents’ house I once again took the picture back to Jesus.  I told Him it was true what my Dad said, and I was sorry.  I didn’t want to feel that way about my husband.  In my spirit I felt a nudge, “Look again at the boat, Lisa.”

Oh yes!  There You are Jesus; You’re in the boat!  You’re standing right up there next to my man.  We’re not alone!

It was an amazing revelation.  And then again, in my spirit, this quiet voice – His voice coaxing me to listen and obey.  “Sit in the boat, Lisa.  Be still and watch.  Watch Me teach My man how to sail this boat.”

 An anchor can look like a cross with two arrows on the end pointing up.  It is my trust in Jesus…which anchors me in the boat.

I wish I had the words to describe the incredible peace of that moment.  The presence of Jesus in the midst of our trial is priceless.  He knows us.  He is with us.  He is good and He knows what He is doing.  Jesus has a good plan for us, and He is not worried.  In fact, every once in awhile I remind Jesus,

You know water is coming in the boat still?

Jesus reminds me to look at the picture; He’s in the boat.  Jesus reminds me my trust is rightly placed in Him, and not on my husband to be my savior.  He also reminds me He’s given me a cup (my little job with my little pay), with which I am able to scoop water and throw it over the side.  Otherwise I am to be still, stay in the boat and watch.

I’m watching You; eyes on You, Jesus, as You teach my man how to sail.

anchor

Today I saw something, looking at pictures of anchors, that I’ve never recognized before.  An anchor can look like a cross with two arrows on the end pointing up.  Catching this visual I hold fast to this truth:

It is my trust in Jesus (because of all the times in my life when I have experienced His faithfulness) which anchors me in the boat.

…(Jesus said)“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Mark 8:34

Ponders:

  1. How about you, friend?  Are you facing an uncertain situation?
  2. Are you able to identify any controlling emotions?
  3. Would you be willing to enter an ongoing conversation with Jesus about the inward wrestling match?
  4. Would you ask Jesus to paint a picture?  Sing you a song? Write you a poem?  What other form of communication might Jesus use to make His truth more clear to you?
  5. Proverbs 16:20 reminds us: “Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.”  Do you have a safe person who will offer Godly instruction?  Perhaps you will seek them out today. 
  6. Will you allow trust to be your anchor to help you obey the Lord?