A Safe Place in the Storm…
By Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 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?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” —Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)
My dad undertook two major building projects in his life – the first a remodel of my childhood home in Chanute, KS that, in addition to expanding the house, involved building a full basement underneath the house. Then a few years later, when Dad was transferred, he had a home built for us in Joplin, MO. It too included a large basement. I don’t know that it was fear of storms that caused him to undertake these projects, but in 2011 we were glad he had insisted on this. On a fateful Sunday evening in May of that year, my mother took shelter from a storm that literally destroyed some 2000 buildings in the city. Over 150 people lost their lives to that storm, but Mom was safe and secure because of that basement. But despite the security the basement provided, it was not the only protection she had, for she was not only physically unscathed, but she also seemed to be emotionally unscathed as well despite having lost so much in the disaster. It seems she had a safe place to go emotionally…spiritually as well.
Some who know my mother might assume that the calm she displayed during that and other crisis in life is due to her training and experiences as nurse. Mom had many years of experience in nursing and served as house supervisor at the Joplin Regional Medical Center during our teenage and college years. She was known for her professionalism and expertise as a nurse. But assuming her nursing provided the calm is getting the cart before the horse. Mom was successful as a nurse because of her calm, not the other way around. And if you were to ask her, Mom would probably be embarrassed by the question and tell you she doesn’t know where the calm comes from.
But I know. I know it comes from a deep faith and confidence in Christ. I know because my brother and sister and I have all watched her live out and develop that faith and have each been influenced by it in our own lives. And while it is not a faith that is full of public piety and witness, it is one in which all that know her not only know where her safe place is but are also strengthened by it.
The disciples had not yet acquired that knowledge about Jesus when the storm came that night. I love the Marcan version of this story because the disciples mistake Jesus’ calm and ability to sleep in the growing storm as lack of concern for their welfare. But Jesus knew where His safe place was. He knew that the power that He had been given by God was far greater than the storm. He knew that His Father, the one who created the possibility and capacity for a storm, was able to control not only the storm itself but its effects. He knew that even should the storm have the direst of human consequences that His Father would redeem the situation.
And so, he slept.
He slept until the fear of the disciples caused them to wake a worn and weary Jesus to demand that he do something about it, not realizing that they too had been given power to calm the storm, or at the very least, to simply ride the storm out.
It seems there are a lot of storms brewing in our world right now. Some consider the Middle East Refugee Crisis a great storm that is sure to drown us. Others consider that the response to this crisis by our new President as the storm. And still others see different storms of various strengths and make-up on the horizon.
And given this pattern of stormy weather, some may even be thinking that Jesus is asleep in the stern.
But no matter what storm you see, perhaps you can find the safe place in Christ that will allow you to address the situation without fear, panic or anxiety. Perhaps you will find the strength and power within you to speak to the winds and cause the storm to be calmed “in His name”. Perhaps just knowing that the power given to you by our God is far greater than the power of the storm to destroy you will permit you to ride this storm out. And maybe, just like the disciples, maybe you will need to cry out and try to wake the “sleeping” Jesus to calm the storm. But no matter what storm you face or action you choose to take, know that our God is greater than any storm you face. Know that you too can find peace in the storm.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I feel the wind and hear the thunder. Perhaps it is my weariness but I must admit to being afraid at what I see, what I hear, and what I feel. The boat is tossing, but I ask that you teach me to lay down beside you and sleep, in the quiet confidence that You are more powerful than the storm. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran