June 23, Storm

In today’s Gospel Story (Mark 4:35-41) Jesus calms a storm. It is important to remember that, while the Gospel Stories tell us of something that happened a long time ago, when we are open to it, they offer us insight to what is going on in our life here and now. We all have our own storms. Sometimes they are outside us, and sometimes they are inside us, and sometimes they are both. As difficult as the outside storms may be, the fear and anger are inside us and can be a lot worse than what is happening outside us. We often ask God to help us. When I say my own “Don’t you care if we are perishing” I usually mean “God, fix this so I feel good, and this is how I want you to fix it”. But that is not how things usually end up. It seems God doesn’t rescue us from much, but is with us and supporting us in everything, if we let him. Sometimes what is going on is clear to us, sometimes it is not clear at all. Lots of wandering, wondering, stumbling.

When I ask for help getting through my storms I need to be careful that I don’t decide what getting through my storm means, and what I want the help to be — I could very well miss the help I’m receiving since it’s not what I expect. This has been my story a lot over the years. Thankfully I think it’s been changing. One night years back, which I see as the nadir of my life, I was in my own inner storm, and it was a big one that had been going on for years. I was at the point where, oblivious to all the good that was happening all around me through wonderful folks, I had decided  God was not going to help me with anything, so I was going to end it all. I was in the act of doing this when into my room came my best friend, a big Yellow Lab. He didn’t like what I was doing, and he physically stopped me from doing it. God was happening through Donny. My life changed that night, and began a process of saving and healing that is still going on. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

The important thing here is, if God’s help is not what I want it to be, I might very well say no to it, and keep myself in the storm. Being open to God is always a process, a journey, a letting go. No one, no person, no church enforcer, can get between us and God who is always with us and in us. but if God is not being the God we want and are looking for, we might just miss it all. A question we can always ask is, “Lord, what are you saying to be in this, what are you asking of me here?”. There is always a letting go of something, and it often happens as a surprise.

It’s worth remembering that salvation, resurrection, happens in this life too, here and now, and not just in the next life. The Story of my own resurrection and salvation happened in my own life at a very difficult time, and keeps happening, as my car heart attack experience is reminding me. We experience our storms, our resurrections, our salvation, and we come to realize that the traditional terms often are no longer as accurate and forthright as they used to be, but often are too theoretical and limiting to what we have come to know and experience as real. So we come up with different terms or understandings to talk abut our experiences, such as salvation, resurrection, etc. We come to recognize God happening all the time everywhere, even, or especially, in our storms, most definitely in our here and now. As Merton says, “the gate of heaven is everywhere”. God happens where we are, as we are.  

Sometimes we are our storms, and while we might not see it, we are inflicting our pain and anger on others. When we ask to be rescued we are really asking God to change other people or things outside ourselves because we see ourselves as victims, and nothing is really our fault. We know our storms from the inside, but not from the outside, their impact on other people. What if the help I receive in my storms involves me taking some sort of action that I really don’t want to do? Am I refusing to accept the help offered? Do I just want to be passive and blame God and others for my storms? Who do I need to forgive? What faults do I need to look at? What don’t I want to look at? Am I willing  to face my own pride, my selfish self-centeredness? Do I make everything abut me?

At times we might be part of other peoples’ storms, and they are asking to be rescued from us. Terrible thought. Yet I remember in my own storms projecting my pain and anger on others — everything was somebody else’s fault, and nothing was ever my fault. I was always on the attack, diminishing others, inflicting my pain on others. A terrible way to go through life, but that is how many of us are living.

I need to be alert to and aware of what is happening around me, believing that it is all somehow a manifestation of Abba, who is not asleep in the back of the boat, but very much involved, constantly doing his healing work. Sometimes Abba is asking me to work with him, to help him bring his healing to others, perhaps to people I don’t really care for. From experience I know that my hesitance or refusal is the beginning of yet another storm in my life. So, as part of my journey of resurrection snd salvation, I need to be open to God inviting me to help. Sometimes this is fairly clear, other times not so much. I have to let the Spirit guide me. As Thomas Merton said so well, “I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself”. We learn to live “open to the Spirit strange as the wind’s will”, never really sure, always willing.

In the Story Jesus tells the storm, “peace, be still”. This really happens when we let him into our own storms. It certainly has happened, and is happening, in mine. The storms still happen, and so does Abba bringing calm and peace. I don’t understand it, but I believe it, accept the whatever, and try to go where it takes me, which usually is to someone else who needs help in their own storms. Perhaps responding to the grace of the present moment, which also is real. Just sayin .  .  .