If you haven’t already noticed, I love efficiency. I often look back on the chaotic, haphazard way I’ve arrived at a solution and–with a sigh–see a simpler, more direct route. It’s easy to assume that I did something wrong, it’s bad, and I’m to blame.
I’m thinking along these lines as I pray with the scripture of Jesus calming the storm. Two things stand out when I see myself in the story.
First, I know a storm will come. I’ve read this text so many times, it’s hard for me to imagine it happening for the first time, so I don’t. I get into the boat, fully aware of the inevitable.
The second detail I notice is that the disciples follow Jesus into the boat. He leads them into the storm.
Often I think storms come up because I’ve mismanaged things: if only I’d been more sensitive, if only I’d stopped and thought about that. But in this story, I know I didn’t cause the storm, I’m not responsible for it, and Jesus does nothing to avoid it.
I look back at a recent tempest in my life and see the ridiculous regret that I have: I wished I had acted out of the wisdom I received only after I’d gone through the storm.
Once again, I follow Jesus into the boat; I follow him into the storm.
Last time I prayed with this gospel narrative, I was invited to have faith that Jesus is looking after everything. So this time, I sit down by my sleeping Jesus and trust that he knows what he’s doing.
I sit peacefully on the floor of the boat with my back against the bench where Jesus is sleeping. We’re so close I can hear his breathing. The winds and waves are still, but a tiny storm of emotion rises from my belly into my chest and tears come. I struggle to name what I’m feeling.
It’s not anxiety, not regret, not sadness.
It’s love–love for God.
If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line–starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past the appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led–make of that what you will.
–Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
My friend Sean drives a bus in greater Vancouver. He greets each person that boards and bids them goodbye when they leave. We are greeted daily by bus drivers, cashiers, librarians, and receptionists. Often we greet them back without making eye contact or we don’t hear them at all. Hafiz says, “Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear.” Hmm. That sweet moon language says, “I see you. You matter. You are loved.” If we did that, Sean would want to make us passenger of the week.