Today in my Bible reading, I read the story at the end of Mark 4 – the story about Jesus calming the wind and the waves. If you’ve been in church 10 minutes in your life, you’ve probably heard that story. It’s a popular story, especially for little kids, because it’s fun to tell the story. It’s dramatic to make the wind noises and splashy sounds of the water hitting the boat. And we’ve all been scared at one time or another. Itty-bitties especially get scared about certain things in their little worlds and this is a comforting story; to know that Jesus will take care of them and protect them.
Sometimes as we get older, the stories can get old. We get jaded by their familiarity. I know that I do. I’ve been taught these stories for years…and I’ve taught them for years. It’s so easy to just rattle them off by memory, not even thinking any more about the significance. Or to hear them with, “Yeah, I’ve heard this one…and the disciples freaked out…and Jesus was asleep…and yada yada etc” ringing in our brains. Familiarity may breed contempt, but in this case, it breeds complacency.
As long as I’ve known David, he has said, especially when it comes to reading and studying the Bible, “Don’t skip over the little words.” And he is so right. Little words, short phrases, things we would often see but not really read, can make a boat-load of difference when it comes to understanding not only the story itself, but the meaning and heart behind it.
Today when I was reading in Mark 4, there was a phrase that jumped out at me that I’ve read before, many times, but when I thought of it in the context of the whole story, it meant so much more to me. I decided not to skip over these little words; not to ignore this relatively short phrase at the beginning of the story. The beginnings of stories are so important! But the beginning of this story hollered at me today. Mark 4:35 says that after preaching by the sea of Galilee, Jesus told his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side.” Of the sea of Galilee, that is. And of course, by boat.
In a few hours, this sea, this sea of Galilee, was going to be hit by a monster storm. A monster storm that Jesus knew was coming…he was God, after all. The Master of the sea. The Orchestrator of the weather and the waves. And yet, it was His idea to cross the sea. The Sea of Galilee is known for its violent storms, which can come up unexpectedly and be life-threatening for anyone in a boat. Jesus knew that. Yet he said, “Hey guys…let’s get in one of these fishing boats and go across to the other side.”
We all know what a storm feels like. We’ve been in them, literally and figuratively. Maybe you’re in one right now. You feel out of control. You feel overwhelmed. None of your efforts to fix it, work it out, perfect it, smile in spite of it, try harder, master, get over or get through it are working. You’re just there in your little boat, scared out of your knickers and shaking Jesus to wake up, notice what you’re going through and do something about it.
But remember this…it was Jesus’ idea to cross this sea. He decided to cross this sea, knowing a storm was coming. He knew it was time for us to cross this sea, that a storm would meet us somewhere out in the dark, nasty middle of it, and he had every intention from the get-go to be there in it with us. He didn’t suddenly disappear when the storm came and then sneak back in when things started calming down. He sticks around through the sucky, scary part.
So whatever your storm may be today, this week, this year, He is in the storm with you. The trip was his idea. And if he said go, and you went, then you can rest assured that He’s there with you…and eventually the storm will subside. And the next time He says, “Let’s go to the other side,” you’ll be ready.