I’m not a big “boat person.” Not sure what that really means other than, I don’t do it often and haven’t had many positive encounters with the water and small boats and/or canoes. Bigger boats, I’m all about. Someone else drives. You sip your beverage of choice and eat some cheese dip all the while someone else is in charge of maneuvering the boat from water to shore.
I can do that. Easy.
Smaller boats that I’m in charge of maneuvering/rowing/whatever the term is, nope.
I will say, if you ever want to “test” a relationship… go canoeing together. I was dating a guy in college and my family went on a canoeing/camping trip and he came along. It was the worst/best thing for our relationship (aka- it ended shortly after the trip). Pretty sure we looked like a life-sized pinball machine going from bank to bank to bank. It took us forever to get down the river and when the waters became more turbulent… we hit a tree and flipped the canoe. The large, metal canoe flipped and slowly started sinking. He started fending for himself. I was left clinging on with dear life until my dad shouted at me to “LET GO OF THE BOAT.” So I did. & Had a moment when I was being swept down the river and was convinced I was about to die. But then, lucky for me, I spied a wilted tree branch, grabbed it, swam to shore, and gave my dad “the look” that said “YOU almost killed me?!” Thank God for lifejackets.
Hated every second of this experience. & Haven’t been canoeing since.
Recently I’ve been thinking (really challenged) on the times in life when God says “wait.” I hate those times. Those time in between where you’ve been and where you’re going. The times when life is just “meh.” & You can’t place it, get out of it, or fix it. It’s just where you are and where you’re supposed to be. Meh.
See, I’m always ready for the “GO” or “NO” answers from God. The answers when you ask God what’s next or what you should do or where you should go… and he answers. “Go” is easy for me. I like doing. Adventures. Moving. Making things happen type stuff. & The no answers are tough but I’m good with it because it is… well, an answer.
But the wait answer… hate it. Why? Because it’s calling me to be, to live, to remain where I am. In a place I don’t want to be. In a place that is hard and trying and complicated. In a place that hurts and is exhausting. In a place that is just meh.
Waiting feels a lot like my boat debacle. For me, it’s that time in between letting go of what is pulling you down and arriving safety to shore. It’s that time of panic when you think you’re going to drown or die or made the wrong decision or whatever goes through your head when you being pushed along in white water rapids and all you have is your life vest.
So often I spend my time thinking and waiting for the answer on the other side. The “what’s next” or “when (fill in the blank) will happen.”
& The longer and longer I live this life, the more I become painfully aware that the answer is not in the resolution but in the journey.
The journey from letting go to arriving on shore. The journey from getting off your sinking (or comfortable) boat, jumping into the rushing waters, and making your way to shore.
Jesus had a lot of experiences with/on boats. Times when he fell asleep in the middle of a storm. Times when he called people out of the boat and into the water. Times when he’s on shore calling his people to follow him. Boats and water are all over the gospels. And those would be the easiest verses or story to insert right here. But that’s not what I’m going to do.
Instead I’m going to insert a story on waiting. One placed in the Old testament, written to God’s people when they were in between what was and what is to come. One when the people were damaged beyond (what seemed) repair and were completely broken.
Everything felt… lost. And finally God’s people cry out to him. Ask for God to heal them, forgive them, bring them to a “new” place. A new season. A new ANYTHING- just as long as it’s a “not where they are” place.
& Here’s God’s response to his people…
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare… For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”
Ouch. The people asked for a way out. A new season. A new place. A new home. & God commands them to do just the opposite. LIVE WHERE THEY ARE.
Live in difficult season.
Live in the place they don’t want to be. & Not just endure it or survive it… enjoy it. Get married, have kids, plant gardens, & to pray for the city that took away their freedom. What an incredibly difficult calling. A calling that required faith. True, deep, committed faith. But what I love about God is that he doesn’t calls his people to such an incredibly difficult challenge without give them a promise.
Here’s what he says (directly after calling them to live where they are)…
“ 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” [Jeremiah 29:5-14 (ESV)]
Yes, this is that really cutesy verse painted in some pastel color probably hanging in your house (or any and every Christian store). But the truth is, this verse is more than than a sign or cute verse to quote in difficult times. It’s a verse filled with disappoint, pain, anger, frustration.
It’s a verse with a story. A back story of loss and confusion and God calling his people to find CONTENTMENT where they are.
In the loss.
In the pain.
In the disappointment.
In the place they didn’t want to be.
This verse reminds me to find, discover, seek contentment right where I am. When I love my place and when I hate my place. When I am hurting in my place. When I am joyful in my place. That place. My place. The place I am today is where God calls me (calls us) to fully live. But he doesn’t call us to such a difficult challenge without a promise. A promise of his goodness, his greatness, his love, and true plan. A plan that is built upon love. A plan we may have messed up big time but a plan that can be redeemed. A plan that will ultimately bring about some glory and hope and love and goodness.
So the point?
Let go of your boat. It’s going down, you’ll eventually go down, and what you’re reaching, searching, crying out for is not on the boat. It’s in stepping into uncharted territory. In doing what God is calling you, probably whispering to you, to do ever so quietly. That’s when life gets good. When things get tough and fulfilling and crazy and exciting. All of it.
It’s in the fight to find the good that we learn to let go of all of the bad.
We learn to live in the place we are. We learn to let go of the idols we cling so desperately to and begin finding a new vision, a new story to tell. And in that moment of waiting. From letting go to making your way to shore, remember this one thing: God is good. Rushing waters tend to cloud our judgement. But the reality is; God IS good. And his plan is just and right and exactly what we deeply need. My advice: take it up with him on the other side but for now- for today; own it, live, & somehow find a way to let go of your boat and enjoy the wait.
Find contentment where you are, T O D A Y.
& Focus on the good in that day. Not on the difficult. Not on the “I might not make it” kind of stuff. & Find contentment NOT in what may or may not change. Or in what you can or cannot to do to fix it but instead on the goodness and greatness of the God you serve.
The reality is, when our time on this earth is coming to an end, the stories you will be telling will be about that ridiculously crazy time when you were floating in white water rapids and how you clung to a stick and pulled yourself on shore. See, no one cares about the shore. The shore is safe and easy and comfortable. They want to hear about the rapids. About the time you lived and served and loved your guts out when the most challenging obstacle was place before you. & You survived. You made it through. You learned how to live & love & be in a place you didn’t want, ask for, or quite frankly ever think you’d be. But you did. God did. & because of that boat, that waiting, that meh, you became stronger and more confident and more focused on the calling God has placed on our heart.
Now, that’s a story.
My hope is that we live it well so it’s a story worth telling.