Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Occasional Shipwrecks

Sometimes things just go wrong. Because we are not on this planet alone, we encounter people who get in our way, people who are wrong, and people who have bad intentions. The times that our paths cross these people, well, it makes our lives just a little more difficult.

I once was involved in this huge stink at a church because I had been nominated as a deacon. I was a single woman in my 20s. There were no deaconesses at this church, or female ministers. Turns out, someone had nominated me, but the committee had not understood that Tracy is the name of a woman until later in their process.

That is when I was visited by the senior pastor, which was one of the few times because the church was so large. I could just see that they anticipated some feather ruffling or something. I just said, “Ok”, and let it go. I was not prepared to be a deaconess, let alone a deacon.

This did not cause so much strife for me, but whoever nominated me put everyone in a very awkward position. These things happen. Whether big or small, we can be guaranteed that they will keep coming.

I can honestly say, though, that I have never been shipwrecked, lost at sea, or included in a murder plot; but it turns out, Paul was.

In Acts 27, Paul is sailing on to the emperor. For years, Paul was tried at the hands of the Jews, of which he was one. They are accusing him of crimes against their laws. They kept sending Paul to trial and he was found innocent, but new charges were brought to keep the trials going. This was, of course, in between plots to kill him. Eventually, Paul asked to go before the emperor, which turns out to be exactly where God wants him. Paul is to go and share the gospel with the emperor. What a calling!

Paul is in a ship filled with 275 other people. So, it is a big ship. From the get go, they had a tough time sailing. Scripture says that the sailing was dangerous. Paul went to the centurion who was in charge and said, “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives (Acts 27:10, NRSV).”

Paul is in danger, and he felt that it was time to advise the centurion. So, he makes a simple statement. He does not say go back, or find the life jackets. He just sends out a prophecy to the ears of the captain and lets it go. Unfortunately, the centurion is looking to the people that are paid to do this job, and they say...keep going.

I have been there. I have been standing there when bad decisions are made. I don’t care if it is your church leaders, country, spouse, parents or friends. There is nothing to make you feel out of control like someone making the wrong choice and you have to deal with the consequences.

I have never gone down quietly, though. If it is big, I just talk and talk until I feel heard AND agreed with. Little things can go a little smoother; but the big things, those are the hard ones. Paul was thinking shipwreck and lives lost. This was a big thing, and Paul gave just one statement. This is just where my amazement begins.

He doesn’t say anything to them again, until all hope of being saved was abandoned. In verses 21-24,

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.

This situation is in crisis mode, and Paul stands up one more time. He is showing courage where others have none. The amazing thing that we see through out the New Testament is the acquiescence of the people. When Jesus or the apostles stand up and speak, people agree. This is also a man who could heal and bring people to life. His presence was powerful. Although it seems unlikely, they knew that Paul was right.

I wonder how much the fact that he only spoke twice, and was calm during crisis, helped him. Do you see where I am going with this?

How could Paul’s situation be worse? There are two plots going on. Some of the Roman soldiers try to escape, but Paul knows about it and has it stopped. And, little known to all of the prisoners, including Paul, the soldiers were planning to kill them so they could not swim away and escape. The centurion stopped them out of regard for Paul’s life.

Here is what I take away from such an adventure, although I am not sure that is what Paul would call it. I would like to claim Paul’s peace for my own. He only spoke once when he saw that bad decision coming down the line. Then, he sat back and lived with it. He was right where he was supposed to be.

Sometimes, we think that if we are obedient, God will send us from A to B as quickly as possible, because it is His idea in the first place, right? Some of my journeys from A to B have looked more like the eternity symbol. God had every intention of getting Paul to share the gospel with the emperor, but Paul had to commit to the journey first. Are we committing to our journey?

So, if we are committing, are we peaceful? Do we endlessly talk about what we would do differently? We can defeat the purpose of the journey, if we keep speaking our peace. Paul spoke once and was willing to go down with the ship. What if that was our mentality?

As we know, everyone ended up safe on land in Malta, where another adventure began. Let’s expect these adventures. Let’s be quiet and still in their midst.

Father, thank you for your journeys where you bring us along. Let us ride them in peace. Let us commit to your ways for us, wherever they take us.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments mean so much to me. Thank you for taking the time to share what is on your mind.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin