What is like to really be in the dark?
We can lose a lot of things, but if we lose hope we are in trouble.
We can’t lose hope.
I can’t let others lose hope.
What are times in the darkness really about? Can we look back and be somehow thankful for those times? One thing for sure: when we feel like we’re floundering, we have to hang on to the hope of seeing that flicker of light. We have to believe that God will meet is in those times or we really are in trouble.
I should be better at this by now! But the last few months remind me of what a tricky time of year this is for me. Valentine’s day, anniversary, Mother’s Day. Even after all these years of marriage, I am still not sure how to do these things well. Here I am again in the middle of it, and I feel a little lost. I am still not sure of the right move, the right gift, or the right words for this particular moment. Especially since we are at a very different stage on the parenting journey.
Last week, while going through my desk, I came across the small, lame, yet completely awesome vase. I have kept it all these years. It serves as a pretty great reminder of what can happen when you space off the gift thing and miss key moments.
So it was the very first Valentine’s Day after my wife and I started dating. I had just graduated from college, and was, well generally clueless on some things. But I did set up a pretty good date night. When I went to her house to pick her up, she came out of the door with two or three nicely wrapped presents, and an excited look on her face. At that moment I knew I was in big trouble. I had nothing! I mean nothing. No card. No gift. I just did not think about it. The only thing I could come up with, was to say that I had forgotten her gift back at my apartment. As I drove back, all, all I could picture I had in the apartment was this giant stack of Mountain Dew cans that my roommate and I had created. I searched frantically. All I could find was a very small, mostly dead cactus, in a small vase. To this day I have no idea where that thing came from in the first place, but it represented my best shot at a “gift.”
So I put it in a sack and gave it to her as the “big gift” for the night. The crazy part was, I actually thought I could pull that off. It is a story that I have never lived down, and a story that makes us laugh to this day… well, actually it makes others laugh at me to this day. No doubt my wife showed amazing grace that night, and likely many times since.
I have heard history repeats itself. I better stop writing, and start thinking about what to do for Mother’s Day. Actually, I need to prod our kids on this one. One thing I know; I will never live down the story of the dead cactus.
You ever feel like you were just floundering? Floundering is a weird word for sure. I looked it up today. One of the definitions in Webster for flounder is “to fling the limbs and body, as in making efforts to move; to struggle, as a horse in the mire, or as a fish on land; to roll, toss, or tumble.”
So it’s worth asking again: Have you ever felt like you were floundering? It is a good definition of my last week, and I’ve had a hard time figuring out why.
Chuck Swindoll tells a story about floundering — of actually fishing with his father for the illusive fish. They would walk out into the shallows of the ocean at night, so far that they would eventually lose sight of the shoreline. When the lights of the shore would disappear, Swindoll says fear would set in along with an eerie sense of being lost. But when the tiny lights of the shoreline would reappear through the darkness, there was again hope, and, I would guess, a sense they could continue fishing.
It seemed to make sense as I thought about it. If you lose sight of the main thing, if you lose that “due north”, it is easy to get stuck in the mire, to struggle, to wonder… to flounder
So I am going to try to get the shoreline back in sight and keep the main thing in front of me. Even just a week of floundering is frustrating.
I feel frustrated this morning. Restless. I’m not entirely sure why, but I know part of it is what I experienced this morning as I headed into some quiet.
There are some things I have been praying about for a long time — really important stuff with the people I care about the most. I have been taking it to God in a passionate way on their behalf for a long time. This morning I just felt frustrated. I’m struggling with the question of whether it matters. Why does God seem so quiet on some things for so long?
As I have thought about Palm Sunday and Easter over the last couple of weeks, I have again struggled to understand why some things had to play out the way they did. As I thought about it, I could sense myself getting angry at how the people so passionately welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday, and then, with equal passion, turned on him a short time later. Then this morning, a light came on for me, triggered by some of the expectations I was having.
On Palm Sunday, it seems people could have been worshiping Jesus with an agenda. They had to be incredible weary of the harsh and cruel Roman rule. But now this miracle worker came to town, and their time had come. They had to believe He was the one, who would finally deliver them from the Roman oppressors. And so with excitement, deep passion, and likely some righteous anger, they welcomed Jesus to the city as the long-awaited answer to their struggle and their relentless prayers.
But soon they realized that might not be the case. He came with a different agenda. They heard the message that this Jesus was concerned with their hearts. He wanted them to have a deep connection, and a life changing relationship with the Creator. Perhaps they started to realize that their agenda — that their expectations might not be met. Soon enough, because they worshiped with that expectation, their worship changed to disappointment, disengagement, and anger.
Easy for me to judge them — until I made some connections to my own journey this morning. The truth is, it is hard to keep pursuing Him when outer circumstances do not seem to change. But I have to ask myself some hard questions: Can I pursue Him… worship Him with no agenda, no expectations… just for who He is? That seems to be a lifelong process. I will keep you posted.
“In irons” is an old sailing term. It was used often in the early days of sailing, and in those days “in irons” had some chilling implications. Last week I actually got to experience being “in irons” in real life.
There are a couple of versions of what it means. My understanding is that when you are sailing and the wind is swirling, and there are gusts coming from different directions, your vessel is essentially stuck. You can’t move because you cant get the sails at the right angle to harness the power of the wind.
The other version of being “in irons” is when the wind dies down, when it is still, and you are stuck. You can’t move. You are at the mercy of the wind. In earlier times, this was a dangerous scenario. With no breeze, vessels would sometimes be motionless for days on end. They were completely dependent on the wind to fill their sails.
Last week we had a Rogue event out in San Diego. We were able to take a few hours to sail in and around the harbor. There was a moment at the end of our time when the winds completely died down. The captain said it was very rare for this to happen in San Diego. We were essentially dead in the water. The sails were laying flat. We were going nowhere. Unlike generations before us, there was an easy solution; take down the sails, start the secondary motor and power our way home.
It was a great metaphor for the guys I was with. We had just talked about the critical importance of seeking God, discerning the way his holy wind is blowing, and getting on board for the ride. I am reminded again how absolutely essential it is to have our sails full, to be moving. There is real power, strength, purpose, and clear direction when the sails are full.
In what areas of my life do I need his holy wind to fill my sails? In what areas do I need movement? Are there some places that I feel blown in several directions, or places I feel dead in the water? Are there parts of my life that are clearly “in irons” ?
I am going to head outside, feel the wind, and see if anything comes to mind.