October 6, 2017
Waves look so different to me now.
We use the cliches so often about our troubled times in life being like a storm and waves crashing over us. So many songs are composed with the imagery of a violent storm drowning our hearts and yet ending with victory over the waves that kept pulling us under. In real life, some prevail and some drown.
I sat with Ryan on the West coast last year watching waves roll in and crash against a cliff upon which we sat for an hour. We didn’t speak to one another, just sat, watching the ocean. Tears fell from my face as I watched these rumbling waves continue to grow in strength and power. They were beautiful and frightening. They had a voice that seemed so quietly distant until it reached the rocks and abruptly announced it’s presence.
I’ve been through some storms in life that I would describe as the waves gently tossing me to and fro but coming out with a knowledge that far outweighs the depth of pain I endured. And then I’ve been through a storm in which the waves seemed to violently throw me against the rocky cliff leaving me unable to swim to safety on my own…wandering if I would ever gain understanding from the pain that was left. Wandering if it was even necessary to gain understanding. We tend to think we are owed explanations when things go “wrong.”
Isn’t it interesting that we rarely desire or even think about “deserving” an explanation when things go “right?” Yet we quickly scream and cry out in anger, frustration, confusion demanding an explanation when the waves begin to pull us under!
I found myself staring at a memorial marker, tracing over my little boy’s name with my finger…
T-y-l-e-r J-a-m-e-s K-i-d-w-e-l-l
…sometimes the bronze so hot from the sun that I wish it would scar my finger and take away my fingerprint, just like he was taken away…every time I visit I trace his name and every time I visit I imagine myself digging up that grave and taking my boy back! But every time I visit I am quietly reminded that He calms the storm and quiets the waves; that if I did burn my fingerprints off and dig up a body, that the storm I would unleash would bring only my fatal wounds of unfaithfulness before a trustworthy Father.
I’m reminded of the story we are told after Jesus had performed countless miracles witnessed by His disciples…
“That day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So, leaving the crowd behind, they took him just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. A furious windstorm arose, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern on a cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, “Rabbi, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re about to be killed?” He awoke, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind subsided, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no trust even now? But they were terrified and asked each other, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the waves obey him?””
Do your storms look familiar? Do they take you by surprise? Do you often think God is sleeping through your storm while you feel like you are drowning? Do you yell at Him saying what His disciples said, “I’m going to die! Don’t you care?!” Do you only cry out when things are going “wrong?”
Jesus answered them and me during the storm. I note what is noted first in scripture, Jesus was asleep during the violent storm. Could it be, that we react so unlike Christ during storms that this beautiful passage of scripture informs us how to behave? Jesus was sleeping. Waves were breaking over the boat and it was about to be overcome and Jesus was sleeping! How?! How can we emulate this in our own life when storms hit? Could it be that His nearness to the Father allowed Him to experience and live out such peace that even when He was caught in the midst of a storm He was able to rest!?!
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
I have found the nearness of God to cause my heart to feel light. That grave sight I desire to dig up would only reveal a decaying body and not my living son. I know He conquered the grave and left it behind and that too is how I shall live.
Let’s visit what He does next when He awakes. He listens to his disciple’s cry. He hears their complaint then speaks, first to the storm, then to the them.
“Quiet! Be still!”
And the wind and waves obeyed and there was “dead calm.”
I shutter at this verse. It makes me fear God and all His power. I have experienced holding “dead calm.” It is terrifyingly beautiful. It is looking at your newborn free of breathing earthly air and thanking God for the willing sacrifice of Jesus, in order that the dead calm you hold is not the final say. Your heart goes from panic to peace in a single blink when you realize the tremendous power of the Almighty. The God who calms the waves with His voice and the God who calms a mother’s heart holding her dead child is to be feared! His power and understanding so beyond our grasp, yet we reap the benefits.
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”
Once He eliminated the immediate threat He now tends to the disciples as He did me…”why are you afraid? Have you no trust even now?”
I, like the disciples, have walked with the Lord. I have witnessed His power and glory time and time again throughout my life and the life of others. I find His question posed exploding with justification.
“You’ve watched me rescue and deliver, you’ve watched me perform miracle after miracle, you’ve stood beside me, leaned against me, walked the same path, left the comforts of your previous life, and after all this, have you no trust in who I am and what I can do?”
I can flourish like a fool more often than I can shine like a saint. I can quickly recount the storms and demand an explanation or I can trust in the one who actually causes them to cease! I can stop demanding that I am owed an explanation and begin counting all the things gone “right.” I might be overwhelmed if I actually sat down for 10 minutes and began to list the “rights” in my life. The same God that calms those storms is also the same God that pours forth an abundance of life.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
It is the final observation of this chapter that I find so much promise. I know something that the disciples were unaware of…they were terrified, asking one another who could this be, despite the presence of Jesus. I imagine the looks and whispers of these rough men as they stood in awe of the power from the Son of Man displayed in this moment. They had yet to fully grasp who Jesus was. We have the advantage in knowing that that same Jesus would eventually jump willingly into the deadliest storm and die on our behalf. And in doing so, we will be amongst those who prevail the storms and do not drown, because we will trust the God who is able to speak and the winds listen and obey and become dead calm, leaving us as witnesses to declare that He alone holds the power to our peace within the storm.
When Ryan finally broke the silence on that October day one year ago, he asked, “are you ready?” After a deep sigh I grabbed his hand and he lifted me up. I glanced back one last time to see those waves crashing and realizing that I was so far beyond their reach, so high above them, prevailing because the God who anchors my soul desired to pull me out of that violent storm and teach me of His intimate nearness to my heart.
“I am anchored, and secure, And I dread not the stormy waves that roll, I am anchored firm and sure, Safely anchored on the Rock of my soul.
There is peace in my heart all the day, For I know my Redeemer still is near: O He tells me of rest, that shall yet be mine, And His voice in my spirit I hear.”
I Am Anchored Safe – hymn written in 1875, by Fanny Crosby