I really don’t know much about sailing. As a young child, my only “real” experience was going on canoe trips to Algonquin Park, learning how to portage, setting up tents and campfires. I distinctly remember one occasion when was a youth leader we took a group of youth for their annual canoe trip in the summer. This particular night, at the beginning of the trek, I was paired with an in-experienced kid, small and not physically strong. So, as you may guess, I would do the bulk of the paddling. The only thing was, a storm was on its way, the waves were already lapping into our canoe, and there was a chance of our canoe tipping in the middle of the lake. Thankfully, we did not and made it “safely” to our destination. Did I also mention that it was late evening, the sun was beginning to set, and we just had to paddle hard, fast and follow the rest of the group. My only other “sailing” experience? Having fish and chips at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.
I was reminded of this recently because of what we are currently going through. Last night, we were caught off guard by the latest news regarding how Hong Kong will battle omicron. Numbers are high by Hong Kong standards, hospitals are overrun, patients have been sleeping outside, babies who have tested positive are separated from their parents, the youngest being 11 months old. So the latest news? School is cut short, and we will have Summer holidays, now listen, in March / April instead of June / July. I’ve done Christmas in July, but never in my 20+ years of teaching have I had Summer in March. As I write this, International School leaderships are having a meeting, and we are hopeful that some of the new restrictions do not apply to us. This, too, is tragic because Hong Kong literally has a two-tiered education system. Maybe I’ll write about this another day.
Thankfully God’s word speaks to this. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4:35-41, we read the story of how Jesus calms the storm.
“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down, and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!””
In this passage, Jesus suggests to His disciples to get into a boat and sail across the lake to “get away” from the crowds. These men are experienced fishermen, they know the waters, they know how to read the weather pattern, seasoned men who have been in numerous storms. In verse 37, a furious squall appears, and the boat is swamped. The men must have been doing their best to remove as much water as possible. They must have relied on their prior knowledge and understanding to overcome this particular situation. And what was Jesus doing? Sleeping. In panic mode, they wake Jesus up and question His care for them. Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind and says quietly, “Be still,” and IMMEDIATELY the storm dissipates, and everything is calm.
The disciples and Jesus had a destination to get to; unfortunately, the storm “came out of nowhere” and uncontrollable factors for the disciples. Their compass was thrown off, not sure if they had a steering wheel, and other boats were with them. We don’t even know what conversations were had on those boats, but I can imagine they were not highly positive.
Our current predicament parallels this example. Our school started the year as normal as can be. We interacted with our students, collaborated in groups, ate lunch, recess twice a day, etc. – and then BOOM, we get hit with Omicron, tighter restrictions, LeaveHomeSafe App, and then we are told that Summer is now moved up to March. I feel for those who are leaving Hong Kong at the end of the school year. I feel for those who have already bought tickets to go home and visit family. There must be a huge disappointment on their part. And then there are some families who are desperately trying to leave Hong Kong immediately. There does not seem to be an end to this madness. There does not seem to be a life ring at the moment. There’s nothing, for so many, to hang on to. Thankfully, as followers of Christ, we can hang on to Him, even if it’s by a thread. Not only is Christ our life-ring, but He is also still Lord of the storm. The storm that His disciples experienced, did not come unaware by Christ. He is Creator. He is omniscient.
My compass is off. My emotions and ability to think straight today and yesterday are not balanced. I don’t know where to steer anymore, and so I need to learn to hand over that to Jesus. Please don’t even ask where we are headed. I would say, “stay the course,” whatever that may mean. I have other boats with me as well – my family. We need to head in the same direction. Christ is our sail, He is our strength. Jesus calmed the storm for His disciples and the sea became still. This storm that we find ourselves in, cannot last forever. Jesus, if we allow Him to, is with us in our boats, if we allow Him, give Him the steering wheel. Jesus will calm this storm too. After all, He is Lord. He is the King of Kings. May we not live in fear, may we not doubt but rather live out our faith and continue to be obedient to what God has called us to.
You are loved.