job turbulence, choppy seas, and moving from fear to fierce
I am in an in-between place. That place where I’m Not This Anymore and I’m Not That Yet. It’s a lot like packing for a trip; I need to decide what to take and what to leave at home. I’m shifting shapes, God is sanding me, and for once I’m not resisting. All in all, I have done a very brave thing and I am walking it out – taking leave of a job I thought was my dream job to bushwack a path toward new dreams. I’m even sharing these dreams with you strangers (don’t take that wrong, but, have we met?) Big dreams. There is much joy in the journey and a shocking amount of tears. My. Poor. Husband.
This Job Turbulence has sent me running to John 6 and Matthew 14 and that time when there were these guys in a boat on choppy seas and their strange priest/handyman/God friend, Jesus, came walking to them on the water.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,”they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
So, I love to frame the stories Jesus lived in terms of a classic Story Arc, we have all the regular elements of a great story here in this scene. Mapping it out helps me understand the point he is making, because it usually isn’t the one we see at face value. In this passage, as in every good story, we have the Story Setup, Rising Action, Climax, and Denouement or how it all works out. If you think of any movie or book you love, you can recognize these elements. The Rising Action is most of any tale and it is when characters encounter adversity and usually fail a few times on their way to The Way, whatever that means for the story. (For more on the power of story, I recommend Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull)
This is how I Story Arc the above passage:
Story setup: A very pivotal character in the great story of God, John the Baptist, has been murdered, a crowd of 5000 have been fed by a miracle of meal multiplication, anyone with anything that needed healing has been healed, and Jesus needs some alone time really bad. Meanwhile, for the disciples, the new normal resumes and there are boat rides.
The disciples freak out thinking they will drown on a routine trip from point A to point B, until they see a man walking to them who may or may not be a ghost. Jesus tells them not to worry, to take courage, because he is here. (The storm is still raging, incidentally.) Then, for some crazy reason Peter (kind of stealing the show) asks Jesus to prove his authority by allowing him to also be a water-walker. Peter is bid “Come.” but sinks until Jesus saves him. Then he calms the storm and makes it clear that they failed the faith test. Which they probably knew.
Jesus says to the disciples that the reason they can have courage is that he is here, and he proves his authority over even the weather by defying it and also saving Peter and everyone else. Peter is schooled, again, and life goes on.
Storm; conquered. Faith; won. Lake; crossed. Sick: healed. Jesus as God incarnate; illustrated.
This story has really comforted and redefined what I am going through this summer because it has been tumultuous and painful and scary, and yet the words of Jesus have been the same words he spoke to the disciples on the choppy sea.
Take Courage. “Take heart,” is how the ESV Bible puts it. This is all temporary. Walking on water was never meant to be a forever lifestyle – it was what was called for in the moment. I often think I am not brave because I am a mere mortal far more often than I am Superman. For the disciples, choppy seas were probably a regular occurence but not life-threatening ones. It’s not every day that I have to be redefined in my own eyes and allow the storm to decide the next brave step. But this summer I had to. The strength and clarity I need for right now, I have. I have chosen to take heart.
It is I. Who was the one standing there on the raging sea talking to the people seeing their life flash before their eyes? The one who is able to do that. Who just healed and fed. They were probably just debriefing about all that when they pushed off from shore that day. He is fearless because of who he is, not because of what he can do. Jesus said “It is I”, or “I AM.” That’s what his solution was to their problem. How is that a solution? That day it was a solution because the God of the universe was present, able to solve the problem, willing, and he loved them. And that is the same solution to my every lack.
Don’t be afraid. When they were in the middle of a circumstance that the disciples feared would end in shipwreck or an encounter with a zombie (they feared he was a ghost), what Jesus said was not,”Here’s how to sail in such a way that you will not die today.” Or, “Look, there’s a motor boat. We’re saved!” He reminded them to stay in the moment, and get a grip on the fear part. Fear is crazy-making. Whatever we can do to step outside of fear will bring us to a different place emotionally that we can make decisions from. All fierce people know this, I’m finding. Never let fear make your choices.
Good news (insert my personal denouement): I’m blessed to have new work to begin with good people who do amazing things. I want more. More than just to not be choked by fear; I want to be fierce. When I look at being fierce in my life, living boldly as Version 51.7 me, it means being the same person in every place, letting go of taking my value from temporary titles, and no longer serving the idol of Job Worth. Jesus shows me how. I bet it will work for you too.
Get brave. Understand who I am. Ditch fear.
Sign me up.