Rembrandt painted this depiction of Mark 4:33-41 in 1633. It is said that he painted a 13th disciple into the boat that was a self-portrait....
That's my "playing it safe" thinking taking action. How many times do I avoid uncomfortable situations that I fear will cause me to be hurt either physically or emotionally? Of course, prudence is always called for when possible. But we cannot always know for sure what a decision might lead to. Do we always then not do it just because we can't predict a "safe" outcome? Nothing new would ever be invented or discovered.
I had a good example of this yesterday while working in the yard. A few times I've put Gabriel, my dog, on a long leash and tethered him so he can watch me work. I wasn't staying in one place for very long yesterday, however, so I left him in the fenced part of the yard. It wasn't too long before I turned around and saw him sitting in the grass nearby. He's found a hole in the fencing. He was staying close by so I decided to let him have his off-leash freedom. He obeyed me each time I called him back whenever he started exploring too far away from me. I thought about how happy I felt that he got to roam about in new territory. I wished he could always have this freedom. It felt risky for me, though, to give him this privilege. At any moment he might see a squirrel or deer and take off running after it. Would a stray dog challenge him or would he get hit by a car?
When I went in for lunch he dutifully followed me in. After lunch I let him in the yard again and started raking along our long driveway. Sure enough, there he was again. I felt a little nervous because I was now closer to the street, so when he ventured out of our yard into the neighbor's wooded area and wouldn't come when I called I coaxed him back to the house by going there myself. Thankfully, he followed. I left him in the house while Ken found the breach in the fence and mended it.
This little episode was a picture of Christ in the boat for me. To be truly free is to not be afraid. Gabriel was not at any point afraid. He was quite enjoying himself. There were times he'd take off running in the crazy 8 figure he does when he's off-leash, his mouth open in what surely is a smile, his hair plastered back on his face--he is fast! If Gabriel were in that boat with Christ in that storm, I feel certain he would not have been afraid (as long as there was no loud thunder, that is). He'd be running up and down the boat trying to lick the water spray in the air. I, on the other hand, might very well be clinging to the ropes for dear life, wondering how in the world Jesus could sleep through this storm and asked right along with the others, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" I probably would have added, "Why did you let us go out in the boat in the first place when I'm sure you knew this storm was brewing?"
But the safest place to be was in the boat because that is where Christ was. When Gabriel was with me he was safe because I would not lead him into the street nor near a vicious dog. As long as he obeyed my command to come I could keep him safe.
What does this look like for us? We aren't even aware of how many times we've been kept safe. I've had a couple experiences where I've avoided an automobile accident because I decided at the last moment to move into a different lane. And the couple accidents I've been in I can tell you were caused because I wasn't paying attention--not to my surroundings and not to God. This is also the case when I've gotten into trouble with people and have gotten hurt. At the same time, the times I've been obedient to love no matter what and looked to God for my needs I've never been hurt.
I'm finally beginning to understand that if I'm in the same boat as Christ--whether it's in a storm or calm seas--I can stop trying to figure out how to avoid the storm. If I'm paying attention to the warning signs like sailors do (red sky at morning sailors take warning) and being obedient by staying in the boat with Jesus, I have nothing to fear.
Yet, we can't avoid all troubles in life even when we've done everything right. Some are there to teach us something we could learn no other way, and some are there so others can minister to us. But no matter the cause or reason behind them, we can be assured that Christ is in the boat with us, giving us HIS peace.
Father, help me to remember to stay in the boat when the storms of life assail me for there is where I shall find peace.
Link to scripture: John 14:27