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'My God, we're drowning'

Recently, I’ve been caught out in a few storms.

Being tossed about by the wind, swamped by choppy waters, wondering if you’re going to drown is a horrible experience.

As I struggled with this experience, Mark 4:35 - 5:1 came to mind. (I had written a commentary about it for ‘With Love to the World.’)

It tells the story of Jesus and the disciples, who cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee on some fishing boats. On the way, a great windstorm descends on them, causing chaos.

Jesus is awoken. He calms the windstorm, though not the disciples’ terror. Nonetheless, they continue to the other side.

I regard this story as a parable about the life of faith.

The disciples and Jesus start from their side of the Sea of Galilee, that is, the Jewish side, which was home. Here was familiar territory, offering protection and reassurance.

The other side of the Sea of Galilee was Gentile territory, strange and unfamiliar. It put them on edge.

The journey from the familiar to the unfamiliar is never straightforward, not least because of the common assumption that the unfamiliar should resemble the familiar.

Disorientation, storms, make us realise this is not the case. Sometimes, we need to be disoriented. Disorientation means we have to re-set our bearings. Once re-set, reorientation can take place. (NB Not everyone chooses to reset their bearings. Some return home or doggedly continue on, determined to keep the original earings intact.)

When looked at through this prism, storms are a necessary part of travelling to the other side. They allow us to arrive on the other side. By ‘arrive,’ I mean to be present to the strange and unfamiliar that we meet there.

This is confronting because the wind and rain may drown us, and we never reach the other side.

For Jesus, however, it seemed obvious, “Why are you afraid?’ he says to the disciples (Mark 4:40)

In other words, ‘Of course, there will be a storm. That’s how we get to the other side. There’s no shortcut.’

It is not apparent to us. Each time a storm hits, we’re shocked and taken aback.

There is encouragement in this story. When you strike a storm, maybe you are on a journey that matters, a journey to the other side.

Moreover, arriving on the other side, you may discover a God who is much bigger than you had previously believed in. (This God welcomes Jew and Gentiles, familiar and strange, us and them.)

Faith in this God always leads, at some point, to the other side.

So take heart, you can survive the storm. It will still be horrible and unnerving, but we do survive. (Recently, I had to relearn this unwelcome truth yet again.)

On the way, you may pick up something important about how to survive, and who knows what you will discover on the other side?