SHIPWRECK OR SHINE
Thanks to Krista Karels for taking this picture!
June 28, 2010
Early morning sunlight angled onto the hill while dew still clung to the air. I felt infinitesimal drops on my skin, not coming from above me where the sky was the color of a jaybird's wing, but from all around me. Instead of rendering itself as mist, the dew acted as a prism, giving more intense color to all it touched. How can you not catch your breath, and letting go, lose your boundaries to the endlessness of beauty?
I've set this day aside to consider the gift of comfort. This wealth of time for such focus comes as a gift of my parish community through Joyce, the ministry coordinator, who invited me to share thoughts with parents of those children attending the Vacation Bible School. My research of the twenty-seventh chapter of ACTS OF THE APOSTLES has been completed now for a week and the talk is tonight. All that remains for this day is to let the Light shine through.
Beauty, goodness, truth, love, faith, comfort—most qualities of experience can be accessed at varying depths reaching from the surface through to the essence of the Divine. In the Starz series, TUDORS, one of the characters—I think, Sir Thomas More—says, "You can't go to heaven on a featherbed." It occurs to me at the beginning of my ponderings that often when we pray for comfort in the chaos of our lives, we do so in the mistaken notion that we can. So—is comfort a featherbed? Is comfort instant deliverance from pain? Is it a pill? Those who promote surface comfort would say yes.
The story from ACTS deals with Paul's imprisonment and a winter trip by sea to Rome during which the large trading vessel encountered weeks of cyclonic weather and was finally wreaked off the coast of Malta. During this time, Paul had a vision in which God spoke to him, promising that all of the crew, passengers, and prisoners would survive the wreck, but on condition that no one abandoned ship, that they cast off all excess baggage—even the grain in the hold, and that they work together to get as close to the coast as the ship would go, and finally that they would help one another swim to shore. THIS was the comfort. Not a magical end to the storm, not a lifting of the pain of hard work, fear, hunger, exhaustion--but a choice to participate with God in deliverance through the chaotic storms in which we are sometimes tossed.
In scriptural language water, especially of the sea, is symbolic of chaos . Chaos in our lives comes in virtually any form--from financial concerns or actual collapse, to the pain of misunderstanding or even betrayal in relationships, to illness, and to death. Our hearts cry out for comfort – like the Apostles fishing on the lake while Jesus slept, and the waves threatened to engulf the boat: "Lord, save us, for we are perishing." My own heart cried out like this while John was in such pain from cancer. It's almost impossible not to.
Comfort is not a featherbed. My friend, Alla, often says, "There's no way out but through." Comfort, the word, means "Com=with, Forte=strength." It is participatory—WITH another. It is a sharing of strength, of fortitude. Together with one another, strengthened by the promise and power of God within us, we come through. When calm returns we'll be struck with wonder, as were the Apostles: "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and sea obey him."
There are times the ship will be wrecked, when all that is of this world will be lost, when we've lost what we think is all of it, tossed it over the side into the churning sea, hoping, hand in hand, that God's promise will be true—that when we jump God jumps with us, and together we all make it to the other side, the shore. And there, lying on the rocks of this new land with nothing left but our souls, panting with exhaustion, aching from exertion, having offered everything in return for the strength/the comfort of God, we begin to feel it flowing through us. The Light. The Morning of our New Life. And covered with the dew of newness, we shine.