Just as Burma’s coastline appeared on the horizon, a strong wind came up. Grey storm clouds filled the sky and waves rocked our boat dangerously from side to side. One of the skippers started scooping out water vigorously.
I sat with a two-year-old on my lap, trying to tighten the safety vests with mostly broken buckles they gave us just before passing border control. They were obviously for the show.
The thought crossed my mind that if this boat were to capsize, we could just disappear – documents and all – in the no-mans-land between two borders.
A crazy series of events led us here. Our Thai visas were about to expire, but we were still waiting on some documents before we could proceed with our Chinese visa applications. We needed to buy some time and doing the border-run from Ranong – a two-hour drive from our town – seemed like our best alternative.
We enjoy traveling as a family and taking the more adventurous route, but at that moment I second-guessed our decision. There was no turning back as the skippers adjusted the direction to hit the waves head-on.
I was reminded of the story of the disciples on the water. I imagined they were on a similar wooden boat. I could relate to their fear amid the storm, their surprise when they realized Jesus was sleeping, and their wonder when he arose, rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.
I prayed that God would calm the waves and my beating heart.
At that moment I also realized that the idea of us being the ‘captains of our ships‘ is an illusion. Any power we may appear to have will always be small in comparison to the One who has ultimate authority.
As much as we need wisdom when it comes to making decisions that will affect our futures and the lives of our loved ones. We also need to recognize that regardless of the direction we choose to go to. There may be ‘storms’ brewing in the distance.
Jesus didn’t promise that following Him would guarantee clear blue skies and smooth sailing. Just look at Paul who survived at least three shipwrecks.
When life’s storms hit, rocking our ‘boats’ from side to side. Our limitations will be revealed, our leaks will show, and we’ll be left with the same question Jesus asked his disciples:
“Where is your faith?”
A question I’d much rather avoid answering – the same way the disciples did.
Because if I had to be completely honest it’s often in my abilities or experiences. Sometimes in people I trust, and other times worldly resources or advice.
To use the example on the boat. The true reason I felt fear was for my little ones. I’m a strong swimmer and even in the worst-case scenario, I thought I would probably be able to swim to shore or stay afloat long enough for help to arrive. My husband as well. But what if something happened to one of our kids?
It’s so easy to forget, isn’t it?
As I lie here under a blanket months later, with a little one safely tucked in next to me, taking a nap. I don’t even want to imagine how this story could have played out.
How painful it must be when our worst fears become a reality. When the revelation of how little we can control comes at the cost of a heartbreaking loss.
I’m sharing this boat story because sometimes it takes a physical experience to learn what God is trying to teach me on a heart level.
In this case helping me make sense of the emotional storms, the dark clouds that sometimes appear out of nowhere. The winds of change and waves of grief that reveals my leaks and makes me doubt every decision that got me on this ‘boat’ in the first place.
I’m learning to trust, not in my strength, but in the One who has the power to calm the storms or (worst case scenario) save me from a shipwreck. A God who is not limited to using any means (including a big fish) to help us get back on the road of obedience.
It’s okay to let go of my tight grip on the rudder; to trust that he will guide me wherever I need to go. I’m also learning to praise Him, in the storm and on the good days (when it’s sometimes tempting to take credit for the smooth sailing).
Because all is mercy and grace. It’s a miracle just to be alive. A gift to be able to watch a little boy’s chest rise and fall; to count every breath as a blessing.
My prayer is that you will get to experience supernatural calm. No matter how strong the wind or big the waves are. May you know beyond a shadow of a doubt where your strength comes from. And may your life be a testimony, a beacon of light to those facing similar storms.
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