35 Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.
37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”
39 He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. 40 Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
41 Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41, Common English Bible)
I have talked a few times before about being at sea in the Navy. I didn’t always like the places we went and missed my family, I loved going to sea. The pictures remind me of a 1980 cruise I was on in 1980, someone said it was 1981. I left active duty in July 1981. The ship left in August.
I do remember, or I want to, the 1980 North Atlantic cruise was not as rough as 1978 (We didn’t go in 1979. The ship was overhauled in Philadelphia. I spent my summer at Veteran’s Stadium watching baseball).
The 1978 cruise had a scary event.
I’ve talked about how all that water and all the stars in the sky can make you feel insignificant in awe and wonder.
My shipmate Patrick and I were up on the signal bridge. It was a sunny day but cold and windy. Look at the pictures, there is no one on the main deck and it is quite wet. When water is breaking over the main deck, especially in that volume and the ship is rolling in many directions, the decks were wet. Wet steel and traction are not partners. Non-skid is put down but it only does some good.
When seas got rough like in the pictures, “weather decks” were closed to anyone but “essential personnel.” I was “essential personnel.” I didn’t mind. In weather like it was a more pleasant place to be. Two words “sea sick.”
Patrick and I were talking and joking, having a good time. Patrick had his back to the bow of the ship and I was facing him and the bow. Without thinking I saw a huge wave. I said, “Wow, what a wave,” Patrick’s instinct was to turn and duck. I was dry. His face got hit with a few gallons of cold saltwater. All on the bridge had fun at Patrick’s expense. Then it happened. Nothing at sea or since scared me like the next 30 seconds.
The ship rolled hard to port (that’s left for you land-lovers). The signal bridge deck had non-skid, but like I said, it can only do so much.
Patrick fell, slidding across the deck. Exterior decks have rails protecting the side. Beneath the bottom rung of rail on the deck itself, is a vertical piece of steel about two inches high called a knife edge. It wasn’t sharp. Patrick got his feet on that knife edge. That was all that kept Patrick from an unauthorized swim call in the North Sea. Had he not caught that edge he likely would have gone in. Even had he landed on the main deck, imagine falling off a four story roof onto solid steel. If he went into the sea, I doubt the Navy would have considered launching a boat. The seas were too rough. The sailor in me would want to go save my buddy. I likely would have been in the lifeboat there had to be a signalman onboard. Truly, had the giant waves not gotten him, hypothermia would have before we could have even gotten the boat off the ship.
To give you a bit of perspective, the ship’s structure is about 30 (about like a 3 story building) feet from keel to water line and another 60 (six stories) to the main deck. It was a 1/4 mile to run one lap around the main deck, a standard track around high school football fields. It’s another four stories to the highest weather deck, where we worked and where the above pictures were taken. It takes a tall wave over the bow to bring water that high.
I was still low enough on the food chain that I had a top bunk. I was not liking the idea of being thrown out of the rack or the pool and fortunately that didn’t happen.
On the same North Sea cruise that Patrick came close to sliding into the sea the entire task force turned around. The scuttlebutt was, some of the small ships were in danger or damaging their keels.
All this is to demonstrate that it is scary to be at sea during a storm, even on a big ship. Further, these ships don’t have the stabilizers that are standard on cruise ships. While doing some research for this post, I ran across “7 Things About Living on a Destroyer.” Number 2 was you will get seasick.
Being at sea can be scary. Being at sea on a boat is even scarier. I have no idea how big that fishing boat was when Jesus and the 12 crossed the Sea of Galilee, but I do understand gale force winds and waves high enough to swamp the boat. While we do know from John that Peter knew how to swim (John 21:7) at least a little. But there won’t be much swimming in gale force winds and accompanying waves. These guys had plenty of reason to be afraid.
When they wake Jesus the first thing he says is, “Silence, be still.” Really? Then he turns to at least one disciple, likely the guy who woke him up and any in the immediate vicinity but on a small fishing boat that would have been all 12 and says, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?” Friends, I had at least some faith that day when Patrick came all too close to going over the side. I don’t mind telling that even today I was scared and if it played out in my life again, I think I still would be.
Have you ever noticed Jesus never tells the 12 to not be afraid until after they are already afraid? I do know that it is difficult at best for fear and faith to co-exist. But fear is not something bad. God gave us fear for a reason. There is danger there and you need to be careful.
Where fear does become a problem is when fear is irrational, like not looking at the screen when snakes show up. I also think it is problematic when God tells is, in this, right now, don’t be afraid I am with you. I can’t help but think Dietrich Bonhoeffer had some fear in his gut when he was carried away for execution even though God was with him.
God being with us does not mean the worst won’t happen. What it does mean is, God walks with us and God will see us through, even if “through” means the ultimate loss.
Jesus simply said, “have some faith, don’t be afraid, I’m right here with you and I’m not going anywhere. I will see you through, even if that means moving from this life to the Kingdom that is to come.
That was the promise of God to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and it is God’s promise to us today. Wind and waves will not cause God to break a promise. They won’t cause God to abandon us. God is with us. Thanks be to God.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Pondering with DrB
Silence! Be Still???
Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church
In cooperation with Spirit’s Breath Ministries