A Meditation on Suffering

A Meditation on Suffering

Let us begin with Blue Boat Home, by Peter Mayer

Though below me, I feel no motion
Standing on these mountains and plains
Far away from the rolling ocean
Still my dry land heart can say
I’ve been sailing all my life now
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the earth is my blue boat home

Sun, my sail and moon, my rudder
As I ply the starry sea
Leaning over the edge in wonder
Casting questions into the deep
Drifting here with my ship’s companions
All we kindred pilgrim souls
Making our way by the lights of the heavens
In our beautiful blue boat home

I give thanks to the waves upholding me
Hail the great winds urging me on
Greet the infinite sea before me
Sing the sky my sailor s song
I was born upon the fathoms
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the earth is my blue boat home

Sun, my sail and moon, my rudder
As I ply the starry sea
Leaning over the edge in wonder
Casting questions into the deep
Drifting here with my ship’s companions
All we kindred pilgrim souls
Making our way by the lights of the heavens
In our beautiful blue boat home

The punchline of Job’s story responds to great suffering. After all his disease, loss and death of his family, betrayal and taunting of his friends, all his suffering that we know is eclipsed only by Jesus’ suffering on the cross, the punchline is “I am the Lord your God who laid the foundation of the earth.”

Then we have the fear and trembling of the disciples in the storm hearkening back to this very passage in Job and right to the living heart of Psalm 107.

25  Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
which tossed high the waves of the sea.

26 They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
their hearts melted because of their peril.

27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
and were at their wits’ end.

28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

29 He stilled the storm to a whisper *
and quieted the waves of the sea.

30 Then were they glad because of the calm, *
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

What does this mean? This story that repeats. This story of hearts melting in peril? Crying to the Lord from their distress? Job cries out to God. The story of the disciples in a boat….in a storm… who calms the storm?

Part of the response to suffering is:

You o child of God. You were born upon the fathoms, and the universe of heaven and earth is where you are destined to travel.

You were born for this, not for a harbor.

Have you noticed there is no happy home in the life of Jesus nor the disciples? There is no pattern, no model for settling down.  There’s no “hey let’s build a retreat center or church with benches right over here”. No, you follower of Jesus, you were born upon the fathoms and the universe of heaven and earth is where you are destined to travel. In this life, you will come upon peace and come upon storm, and in the fierce and violent storm do notice that you are connected to the One who created it all.

And yet, here we are in our very unromantic inelegant human bodies vulnerable to disease and destruction….. and I am telling you that you are born upon the fathoms. When the suffering of our lives makes no sense, the spiritual life offers two antidotes: one, listen to the magnificence of creation and the miracle we are here at all. Crawl under the shelter of the Truth of a Mighty and Magnificent God who does have a role for you. And two, do something small and kind.  Today’s Word from God is to listen to the magnificence of creation and the miracle we are here at all. The high winds, the sea and the ability to set sail with God from right where you are now.

When we hold that the destruction of family, life and love makes no sense. That disease and death devastates and scars the our emotional fabric of our hearts and communities. When we reach out and lament for healing. Yes you, that one, this frail body and soul, was born upon the fathoms. Born to set sail in a boat in a storm. You were born for this, the storm and the sailing forward with God asleep.

You were born to learn to wake up God asleep in your helm when you are most terrified. To learn to lash the supplies to the boat so you will be fed another day. To learn to read the skies to know when the storm is approaching. To open your eyes wide when the calm arrives, to reach your arms to the skies and say thank you for the infinite sea in front of you. We make our way by the lights of the heavens in our beautiful blue boat home.

There will be the wailing, the terror of destruction, and there will be the calm by the hand that rules the universe. When the calm doesn’t come soon enough for our personal destruction, we bewail that God is still asleep….. but what if he isn’t? Jesus wake up do you not care? 

His word was that we all go to the other side and His response is Why are you afraid?

What if there is redemption for all people? What if this suffering is for us and our redemption? Our learning? To throw us deeper into love for all people? To commit our hearts to creating something more caring, more peaceful, more joyful for everyone. What if our suffering, as horrific as it can be, draws us into the heart of God? What IF that is part of the sailing to the other side?

And what is this that the disciples wake up God? What does it mean to you to wake up God? First you need to know He’s in the boat with you. He’s in the boat with you. And second, you need to be willing to accept what happens when He wakes up.

I often wonder if the other boats that set sail and didn’t have Jesus in the boat asleep, what did those disciples in the other boats think when the storm immediately calmed?  Were they better off not knowing it was Jesus who calmed it? Or did they say “whew, thank goodness Jesus is with us!”

The question I want to leave you with today is if God woke up and calmed your storm. Dead calm. No problem. How much joy and faith could you express? Or would you be holding on to your fears like the disciples did?  

How much joy are you capable of? If you have faith, and know God is there, sleeping away in your boat, can you feel the presence and the joy? Does your faith tell you that you’ll make it to the other side?

If you can’t my friend, you have some praying and meditating to do, or you’ll be trapped in fear all your life. 

If you can, you, my friend, have something you ought to be talking about and sharing. If your journey is

The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the earth is my blue boat home

You have a peace that passes all understanding and eternal joy your home. AMEN.

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