Have you ever been on a cruise?
I really enjoy them; David not so much. He said it feels like “church camp on the ocean.” He doesn’t like the structure that a lot of cruises keep…eating at certain times, games by the pool, karaoke (although he did win first prize one year at a karaoke contest on Royal Caribbean), going to shows, fighting for pool chairs. Like church camp, you’re not allowed to leave the “boat” except for a predetermined “excursion” that you signed up for ahead of time…often guided by a “camp counselor” (ok, the ship social director.)
There’s one thing about a cruise…people either love them or they hate them. Ok, that may actually be a bit extreme. But for sure, there is a wide variety of emotions when it comes to a multi-day home-away-from-home on the open water.
The thing is, especially on the cruises nowadays, you aren’t obligated to do one, solitary thing if you don’t want to. You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You can walk through the casino and drop a nickel in, or not. You can attend the magic show or the karaoke bar if you want to.
Want to make a crafty necklace? Want to play shuffleboard? Want to participate in the poolside dance party? Want to stay in your room or on your personal balcony all the live-long day, sleeping, reading, doing a puzzle, playing Solitaire? You are free to do or not to do.
Imagine this with me.
You’ve boarded the biggest, grandest vessel in the line. It’s going to take you on a 3-week cruise that ends in Greece (or pick your favorite bucket-list spot). You can hardly wait. The excitement is through the roof. Your bags are packed. Your anticipation is peaked. You’ve got all the info on all of the adventures that you’re looking forward to. You’ve finally made it and you’re about to embark.
When you first get on the ship, you decide to get your belongings stowed away in your cabin and take off to discover the ship and get familiar with where everything is. You find the fancy dining rooms, the buffets, the snack bars, the ice cream parlor, the pools, the bars…the chips and guac’.
You’re interested in everything the ship has to offer. After all, this is nothing like you’ve ever been used to. All the choices. All the possibilities. All the freedom. All the things! You never dreamed that it could be so wonderful!
Then the next morning comes and it’s time for the ship to set sail on the journey. You can hardly contain the excitement because you know the final destination. A place you have, up to this point in your life, only dreamed of going. This is real! This is happening!
But somewhere toward the beginning of the cruise…maybe 2 days in…you start to lose interest. You met the family at the table you’re sharing meals with. You’ve been to the pool and even slid down the big slide. You played a game of shuffleboard with John and Marsha, the retired couple from New Hampshire with a daughter who’s a pediatrician. You went to a past-your-bedtime show in the fancy theater featuring dancers and singers doing an 80’s tribute.
But now, you decide that’s enough. You’ve done a little of each thing that you wanted to do. You’re thinking it’s a whole lot of trouble to leave the room and get involved in more of the fun activities the ship offers…without a whole lot of payoff. After all, you got on the boat! And you have a really nice cabin…with a balcony, no less. You can control the temperature…just like you like it. You can order room service any time you want. You can sleep all day if that’s what you desire. The two books you brought are just begging to be read.
You’re planning on letting the crew just take care of YOU. “That’s what I paid for, after all!” Why go out and get involved in a bunch of stuff around a bunch of people you don’t even know? After all, your whole purpose in taking the cruise in the first place is to get to the final destination…that grand and glorious place you always thought was beyond your reach.
That’s ridiculous, wouldn’t you say? I mean, you’re completely missing out on the journey. You’re missing the adventure of meeting people, of laughing, sunshine, sunsets, glistening water and music. You’re missing the chances to go on excursions into new parts of the world to discover new cultures and sights and smells and tastes.
And besides all that you would be missing, others would be missing out on getting to know you…especially if you are there with friends and family. They would miss your face and excitement and humor and your own personal viewpoint and insight and joy!
What a tragedy!
The cruise has a starting point and it has an ending point. A beginning and an end. But somewhere in the middle, it can get messed up.
Not the tightest analogy, but hang in here with me.
Do you find sometimes that’s the way we are in our lives; those of us who have believed in Jesus?
I was recently reminded of a verse in Hebrews.
Chapter 12, verse 2.
“… Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith…”
He’s the Beginning and the End.
The Alpha and the Omega.
The Eternal, Cosmic Bookends.
The Originator and the Perfecter
The Starter and the Concluder
The Captain and the Completer
The Amplified Bible says it this way: “Jesus…the Leader and the Source of our faith and…also its Finisher.”
In other words, not only does Jesus bookend our earth-journey of faith; He is also the Source all the way through it.
The beginning of our relationship with Jesus is [hopefully] a joyous one. So exciting and brand new, full of hope and anticipation and expectation.
And when we reach the end of this earth-life, our relationship with Jesus will be an even more joyous one…exciting and new, full of anticipation and expectation.
A lot of life happens in between
Between the bookends, how are we living? Between the bookends, what are we doing? Between the bookends, what are we going through that we’re trying to handle all by our lonesome?
The time between the bookends varies with every single person. Whether you began your relationship with Jesus at the age of 5 or 75, there is an in-between time where we live life.
In between the bookends, we are going to need some things to help us through this life…this crazy, hard-to-figure life…this “Man-heaven-is-sure-looking-good-right-about-now” life.
Above all else, we need His Holy Spirit. Thank God the Holy Spirit is never far away. Even if we ignore Him. We need God’s provision, His strength, His goodness and kindness, His grace and mercy, His guidance, His assurance.
But we get all comfy and settled into our Christian cabin. We want to be taken care of. “That’s what I paid for, after all.” It’s comfortable. It’s predictable. It’s familiar.
We unpack our bags and put our Bible in the bedside table drawer. “We good.” After all, we know where we’re going. “Jesus saved me and I’m going to heaven. What else is there?”
Just like the cruise ship, we got the ticket to get on the boat and we get to exit the boat at the end in a new, beautiful city. But we’ve spent the whole journey watching our voyage on the tiny tv that’s in our cabin…never experiencing the elation of standing on the deck and feeling the warm wind and the sea spray on our face.
As an aside: The people that embark on the boat and spend all/most/a-lot-of their days of the journey in their comfortable cabin, are still going to disembark at the final destination with everyone else and “relish in the splendor” (sounding all fancy lol) of the beautiful city. This brings me a lot of comfort.
I know people who have a relationship with Christ, some from a very young age, that have decided that the daily doings of believing and following just don’t interest them as much as they used to.They don’t see the need.
The joy comes in knowing that there is nothing that will keep them from getting to heaven with me. The sadness comes in knowing that they have missed out on a life of incredible purpose and joy and freedom and excitement…and others have missed out on them and their individual contribution to the world.
What a pity! What a waste! We’re missing out on a large majority of the trip. And the people on this journey with us? Well, we’re missing watching them experience the journey…and they’re missing us.
One commentator said, “One may say that Jesus is with us at the starting line and the finish line and all along the way of the race that He sets before us.”
We can be assured that Jesus never leaves us. Between the bookends of “beginning and end,” He is there. He’s doing his best to coach us, to lead us, to guide us, to help us live our most purposeful life. We just don’t listen. We get into our comfy jammies and watch the world go by on a little t.v.
Here’s my challenge. Don’t the let the middle of your life become a warm, weighted blanket holding you down in luxurious comfort. Let it be full of messy adventure and risk and opportunity and purpose.
Don’t waste your journey. Invest it. Get out of your cabin!