The focus of Sunday’s message (Refined: Arrogance) contains the words “We’re all in the same boat. Everyone needs Jesus’ righteousness, and the rest needs to be melted away.” The idea of being “in the same boat” got me thinking about Mark 4:35-41, which tells of Jesus calming a storm that led his disciples to fear and doubt:
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The political environment in our country lately has left me feeling like there’s a large storm encircling us, and I admit I’ve felt fear and doubt more often than I’ve trusted God with my concerns.
One of the pieces of feedback I heard following the January 19th “Coffee With the Board” gathering was that it’s helpful, in a difficult or turbulent situation, to remember the ties that unite your community and to assume others have good intentions. I think this is a good reminder, whether the community in question is a church or a nation, and it reiterates the idea that we’re all “in the same boat.” But practically speaking, it’s tough to keep that bigger perspective in mind when we’re faced with problems that seem to affect an entire community, problems whose potential solutions are as varied, and as politically divisive, as they come. How do we confront problems we see without being overwhelmed by their scope or fearful of the conflict our position might cause? What if those in “the boat” with us seem to be steering in the opposite direction?
I’d like to propose that each of us discern and focus on our own “boat,” and on the common goals or vision me might share with our boat-mates. God has strategically placed each of us geographically right where we are for a purpose. We live in a neighborhood, work, learn, and play at certain locations, and travel intentionally within specific regions. We can use those locations to recognize the needs and strengths (broken shalom and shalom) of the local communities of which we’re already a part, and begin (or continue!) to build our relationships in those communities to confront the storms we see. Just one example of this is that, if your heart is touched by the struggles of immigrants, you could discover how your school, our church, or local social workers with city/county-funded organizations are already providing resources and sanctuary to immigrant and refugee families in your city, and join those efforts. For instance, next time our church hosts another new Bhutanese refugee family, you could provide some necessities to welcome them and ask how else you can help. These are things you can do alongside someone who may hold a different opinion from you regarding our country’s immigration policies, but with whom you share a desire to help those in need in your own community.
We can also pray that God helps us discern what should occupy our time. Anything that we’re not confident is bringing us closer to him, that might be steering us away from serving him and others, “needs to be melted away.” And we can commit to staying in our boats, even when the waters are rough, grabbing onto God’s strength to help us see past our fears, and paddle with our boat-mates toward God’s grace!
Dear God, show me my arrogance, where I look past or over other people, and replace it with your humility. Thank you for placing me where you’ve placed me, and for helping me to navigate life’s stormy seas.