Life is like a box of chocolates…
No wait, what?
Life is NOT like a box of chocolates!
It’s more like a, like a.
A ship at sea!
A sailboat. One of those big sailing ships of olden days. You’re sailing across the sea with a crew of diverse and eclectic individuals. When out of nowhere a horrific storm barrels up screaming bloody murder.
Yup, that’s it. Life is like a ship at sea, stuck in a torrent of wind and lightning.
So, what do I say about the sea?
Well, we’re at sea. All of us. Sailing. And the storm flings herself upon us. But, of course, we’re untouchable! We are tough and not afraid. We scream our courage at the sea.
Okay, okay, that’s probably not very accurate. I imagine we would all react in, less controlled, and very different ways, as seen in Rembrandt’s painting, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”
The painting clues us into a good selection of reactions we may run into, when faced with this storm at sea. Which we call life. Some of us will aim to take over. To run the show, because we know, unless we do it, it won’t get done right. Some of us will hold onto something, anything, just to stay onboard the ship. Terrified to do anything. Or we may stare coolly into the sea. Doing our best to show an air of control. Some of us completely lose it. (Even the sense that we must continue to appear to be in control.) We scream in terror. Others will find their post and refuse to budge from that place. Refusing to lend a hand to those who also are needing a hand. We’re just doing our thing. Some of us will duck down. Hide our face and huddle in some dark corner, afraid even to stick our noses out. Some of us will sleep. And still others will throw ourselves at the feet of our god(s) and beg for mercy. Screaming for deliverance!
Now, the easy (and understandable) reaction to this is to attempt to extract which of these stances are the correct one? But to this I wanna push up against and say, “That’s not a very interesting question.” People are about to die here.
So what is a good question then? Thanks for asking. That’s a good question. But before I answer that, I wanna probe at the bad question first.
So which posture is the right one? None. None of these positions are right. I repeat, none of these stances get an automatic ‘good stance’ stamp. But also, ALL of these positions get a ‘potential’ stamp. What do I mean by that?
I’m suggesting that these are merely, for the most part, revealing the characters of the people in this story. And these are good. Diversity is great.
For instance, there is nothing inherently wrong with working hard. There is nothing inherently wrong with resting. There is nothing inherently wrong with “steering the boat.” And so on and so on.
However, my potential issue with ALL the above positions is that these can all be means of escape from the terror. Escaping from reality if you will. Each of these postures can be used as means of us creating our own salvation. Each one is a problem.
Take, again, the example of the man working so hard to keep the ship is shape. Unless he is able to watch himself closely he may well come to the conclusion that he is the answer. That if he tries really hard he can control his fate. This is a problem. And resting, we all need our rest, but if you refuse to engage with the suffering all around, this good thing becomes a problem. And when you feel that you need to be in control of every circumstance you will surely be dissappointed (or relieved) when you come face to face with some uncontrollable situation. (Not unlike the stormy sea.)
In the Christian Scriptures we see this story, the story the Rembrandt is based on, according to the apostle Mark in Mark 4. Everyone seems to be screaming and Jesus is shaken awake by the disciples. “There’s a storm! Don’t you care that we about to drown?”
Not unlike how we often react. “Ahh! I’m suffering. I never thought I would suffer! What’s wrong?” But, may we realize that suffering is part of life, and stop being surprised when it comes our way.
And Jesus stops the storm, and turns to the disciples. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith.” Almost like he was saying, “Duh! This is a part of life. If you have faith, you can face these storms. This is life!”
So, may you, may we learn to stop running. May we find the courage to face reality, suffering and all and breath it in deep. Maybe we find the faith to be who we are, even while we see the incoming storm. And thereby our potential end. May we learn to enjoy the struggle. May we learn to laugh at danger. And stand together.
Faith and Love