Is God Sleeping? Reflections on The Calming of the Storm.

You remember that story about the disciples and the storm? They were in a boat, in the middle of a lake, when a storm came out of nowhere.  When they woke up Jesus, who, apparently, had the ability to sleep through storms, he said to them, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  

How many times have we read that story and shook our heads at the foolish disciples? Didn't they know, we ask, didn't they know that Jesus can calm the storm? Didn't they get who Jesus was?

How many times have we heard that story and been comforted by the idea that Jesus calms the storms in our lives?

But, let's be honest, we usually read the story from the safety of our dry, warm houses or our sturdy pews.  

I recently read the story through a different lens, putting myself in it.

Imagine The Scene:

I feel the gentle rocking of the boat, hear the laughter of my friends as we enjoy a beautiful day, taste the sweetness of the figs that someone has just offered me. The sun is glistening on the water. I am enveloped with the feeling that everything is as it should be.

And then I am knocked off my feet. The sky is dark, the wind is howling, the waves are crashing over the sides of the boat. I struggle to stand back up, only to be knocked down again. Everyone is in a panic, trying to get the boat to face the right way, trying to get us out of danger. We can hardly hear each other over the wind, but I know my friends are yelling directions to each other. My heart beats faster, and in an instant, I realize that we might all die.  Where is Jesus? He should be helping us.  

Then I find him. Fast asleep. I shake him awake and practically yell, "Save us, Lord, we're going to drown."

And, well, you know the rest of the story.

But when he asks why I am so afraid, as I stand there with my hair dripping wet, and my knees bloody from falling, I don't feel comforted. I feel angry.  

Jesus and I Have A Conversation:

"Really, Jesus?"  I say.  Why am I so afraid?  I'm afraid because we could have died. It wouldn't be the first time that a boat full of people died in a storm."  

And I rant for a while about what an unfair question he asked. And, sure, maybe he was right about my lack of faith...but how could he really expect anything different? "Haven't there been plenty of times when you didn't calm the storms, I ask. There are storms raging in our world right now, and there doesn't seem to be any hint that you're going to calm them," I stubbornly accuse, now jumping into my modern day self. "I need to know that you're not asleep because it sure feels like you are sometimes!"  

And then, from all of my bottled up frustration and anger and sadness, I yell, "I hate it, Jesus!  I hate that there's terrorism, and human trafficking, and oppression. I hate that there are corrupt leaders who think they can control the truth, I hate that there's poverty and racism and violence against women. I hate that there's cancer and death!"

I stand there, with tears in my eyes, feeling like I've just put it all out on the table.

And at this point, I imagine that he gives me a sad half smile, and his eyes are filled with compassion and sadness as he says quietly, "Me too. I hate it too."

We sit there in silence for a minute or two, my heart thumping loudly in my chest, and with one last push, I sigh, "Then why don't you DO something about it?" There it is. I have nothing left to say. I am empty. I've made my accusation, and I'm ready for him to defend himself.

But he doesn't. Instead my question hangs in the air.  

Finally, with a gentleness that I don't deserve, he reminds me that he has done something about it. He reminds me that when he calmed the storm on the boat that day, it was just a glimpse, just a taste of what will be one day.  My mind flashes back to the moment when he told the wind and the waves to be still, and I see on his face a mixture of delight and power and peace. And I know, deep inside of my being, that what happened on the lake that day was about more than just that one storm; it was about Jesus being the ruler of creation, the one who will recreate.  

He reminds me that he could ask me the same question that I asked him: "Why don't you do something about it?"  

And I find I don't have much to say in return.

Then he points out that when I watched him calm the storm, I didn't take time to be thankful, to be in awe of what had just happened. I was so quick to rush to angry accusations that I missed the beauty and wonder unfolding in front of me. There is brokenness and evil and pain in this world, there is no doubt, but there is also beauty, often mixed right in. Can I have eyes to see both, to make space for both, to respond to both?

He’s Not Asleep…

As our conversation ends, he reminds me of his love, and he looks me in the eye and says, "Dear one, I am not asleep." I take a deep breath and nod, finding myself tired from this exchange, but willing to trust that his words are true. 

So here I am. Living the struggle between what we see and what we hope for, between what is and what will be.  It's not an easy place to live, but it's where we find ourselves these days, clinging to the promises, lamenting the brokenness, kicking against the darkness.

If you would like to experience this gospel story in a way that invites you to enter it with your senses and imagination, check out Jesus Calms the Storm: A Contemplative Reading For Kids and Families.