Thursday, August 26, 2010

In the Eye of the Storm

I've never been in the eye of a storm. When I lived in North Carolina, there were times when powerful winds blew. I have survived snow storms. I have been caught in a thunderstorm without an umbrella. But, I have never before been in a place before that is the target for a hurricane.

Yesterday, all that changed. Throughout the day, I kept looking at the Weather Channel, wondering what would happen if Hurricane Danielle were to hit the island of Bermuda. I called US Airways to inquire about the status of our flights. I talked with the lay leader of the congregation where I am serving for two weeks, asking if they ever cancel church. I have done everything I can to increase my sense of anxiety and anticipation.

All the while, no one around me is really worrying. None of the Bermudans seem worried about the storm. Everyone assures me that the houses have been built to withstand any storm. "Church will go on as planned," I have been told.

The above map lightens my load. The island is no longer in the center of the storm. The Hurricane is moving to the East at a pace I much prefer. I am thankful.

But why is it that we worry so much? Why is it that we allow one little thing to cause us so much anxiety?

As I continue to reflect on the last couple of weeks, I see the places where I have automatically assumed the worst instead of trusting in the best. When a staff member accepted a new position in another city, I immediately thought of everything that could go wrong instead of looking at the window of opportunity being given to the church. When doctors told me two weekends ago that I am not allowed to drive for a while, I immediately started to think about all the ways this limitation will impact my job instead of thinking about the wonderful ways in which I can share parts of pastoral ministry with more members of the church. When a Hurricane started to get stronger in the middle of the ocean, I called my airline instead of praying that all would be okay.

Why do we worry so much? Where is our faith?

In the 14th Chapter of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus has sent the disciples to the other side of the water. While they are in the boat, Jesus goes away to pray. We're told that when evening arrives, Jesus is still away praying when a storm comes. The boat in which the disciples are traveling is far away from the land and becomes battered by waves with a wind blowing against them. The disciples, who surely know that Jesus is close by, fail to recognize Jesus when he starts to walk towards them. They become terrified and conclude it is a ghost. Jesus then quickly responds, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

With these words, Peter, preposterous Peter!, pushes his luck a bit and dares Jesus to command him out of the boat. Jesus invites him to come, Peter steps outside, discovers that he is walking on water, gets afraid and then starts to sink. He is then immediately admonished for his lack of faith.

I have been frightened so many times in the last two weeks. I have been frightened by health issues that I have never experienced before. I have been frightened by needles stuck inside my veins. I have been frightened by medical bills even though I have insurance. I have been frightened by a hole in my heart. I have been frightened by being put on a medication that could have major side effects. I have been frightened by being told that I am not allowed to drive. I have been frightened by a storm - by a real storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and by the storms of life.

Yet, I have also seen Jesus inviting me to step out and trust him. I have heard his voice telling me to not be afraid. I have been assured that he is with me no matter what. He has allowed me to come to this place of beauty in order to discover rest, renewal and extraordinary hospitality. He has surrounded me with church members who have assured me that no matter what, it is going to be okay. He has allowed me to spend this week with family - with some of the people I love the most. He has held my hand, invited me to get out of the boat and trust him. He is with me.

"Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Thanks be to God. Amen.

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