Fruitful Emptiness: Where Jesus Sails

Happy New Year, everyone!

I realize I haven’t written since September. You might remember my last couple of blog posts were about my amazing visit to Maui. I was riding high from my literal mountaintop experience with God. Then I came home to Washington and was swiftly reminded that the real world is not all mountains and oceans and sunrises.

First, my new glasses had the wrong prescription on them. Like, not even close. So I had a migraine everyday for the first two weeks of September, and then for another four weeks after that while I waited for the opticians to get my new glasses remade.

Then my boss, our pastor, was assigned a second parish. No, he didn’t leave and go to a different church – he is now pastor of two whole churches. So my workload doubled. And so did my migraines.

We hired a new assistant at our office, which is awesome now that she’s all trained, but guess who had to train her? Yup. Mayor of Migraine Town.

Late in October, on a Tuesday, I asked a priest to pray for me. He asked me what I wanted to ask of the Lord, and so, stretched thin by the migraines and projects and change, I asked for calm. Starting that Wednesday, I got a canker sore on my tongue, my car wouldn’t start for three days, a rock chip flew into my windshield, and then I lost my wallet at the mall. The wallet had no cash in it, but it had all my ID, including my green card…which costs $450 to replace.

My mom fell and fractured her arm, but I couldn’t visit her because I didn’t have a green card. Our hot water tank broke. And just as I had accepted my lot, just as I had decided to move on and replace my green card already, just as I hit submit on that non-refundable $450 fee, I got a phone call from the bank saying that my wallet had been found. Two weeks after I lost it. I felt like I was living in an Alanis Morissette song. Or the book of Job.

One day as I was driving home from work, I asked God what He thought I meant when I asked Him for calm. Because ever since I prayed for calm, I got nothing but more distress. I wanted to be taken back to sunny Maui; instead, I was hurtled straight into a category 5 Pacific Northwest storm.

Then in my mind, I suddenly had a vision of  Rembrandt’s Sea of Galilee. It was as though Jesus was telling me, “Renee, this is where I sail. If you want to sail with me, you will have to sail in the storm. Calm is just what happens when you realize that you are in my boat, and that I am God.”

While we were in Maui, there was a tropical storm drilling through the Pacific islands. You wouldn’t have known it because it was sunny almost the entire time we were there, but I was constantly looking out at the ocean and saying, “Surf’s strong, guys.” My husband and nieces and brother-in-law would be out with their snorkel gear and their boogie boards, and I would be tucked safely under the beach umbrella, wearing my SPF 100, reading a novel. I don’t much enjoy choppy waters. But right now, in the metaphorical ocean of my life, the surf is very strong. I’ve been tumbling in it like a worn sock in a washing machine. But Jesus is on the boat, and I am going to be alright. Jesus is on the boat, and I have nowhere else I would rather be. The waves are crashing all around, pulling at my ankles, pressing in on my deepest fears, but Jesus is on the boat. I don’t know if I would call myself brave or strong, but I know that I am sailing with God.

And He is greater than the storm.

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