The Rower’s Dilemma

“I’ll meet you over there.”

That’s what Jesus said as he directed the disciples into a boat and pushed them out to sea.

After just witnessing a miracle (the feeding of the 5000), I imagine the disciples with a full belly—on a spiritual high—ready for whatever life (or Jesus?) threw at them.

But then they’re at sea. Rowing. And rowing. And rowing. And getting nowhere. The wind was against them. The waves were likely tossing the boat to and fro.

As someone who grew up next to the ocean, there’s very few things more frustrating than to be on the ocean and have no control over your boat. To be rowing and making no head way.  What is the answer to the dilemma? Throw out an anchor until the wind settles? Give up and let the wind take you against your course?

And this is where we find the disciples.

Were they questioning?

Where is Jesus?
Did He really leave us on our own out here?
Wasn’t HE the one who sent us?
Why don’t we just give up and go back?

I mean, how many hours did they strain at the oars?

But by the time Jesus actually shows up, no doubt they were seriously frustrated and no longer on a spiritual high.

In fact, it seems their mind was so far removed from the miracle that Jesus had performed just hours before, that when Jesus came to them WALKING ON WATER, they didn’t even recognize Him.

Jesus had been praying on a mountain, saw them struggling, and yet He didn’t just speak to the wind and waves and say “peace be still.” He could have. But no. He takes the time to walk out to them. And throughout all of that… still storming.

I’m sure we can all relate to this in some respect.

Truthfully, in this past season, that’s sort of how I’ve felt. Pushed out to sea, trying to go the direction that Jesus last told me, but feeling like I’m rowing against the wind. At times, it’s frustrating. At times, you want to just give up and let things play out as they will.

But, then there’s this Scripture, Mark 6:45-52, that gives a little perspective. And there’s 2 things that I want to share that has encouraged and confronted my heart.

First, it shows me the heart of God so beautifully. What was Jesus praying for while He was on that mountain? I don’t know. But I love to imagine that He was praying for those disciples. Scripture says that He lives to always make intercession for us. Could Jesus have been praying for peace to surround them? For revelation of who He was? For love to abound? For protection? For them to keep the primary thing, the primary thing?

I don’t know. But what I do know, is that in the middle of feeling like I’m fighting against everything. In the middle of misunderstanding. In the middle of hurt. In the middle of the unknowns. When it seems I’m rowing and rowing and rowing, but getting nowhere…. He’s praying for me. For me. That’s an amazing reality to lean into. He’s got my back.

Secondly, I love how it reminds me to keep my focus on Him. Jesus could’ve just spoken to the wind and waves and told it to stop. But He didn’t. Instead, He walked out to where the disciples were straining and spoke to them. In the middle of it all. When the wind was howling and the waves were crashing. Even when they didn’t recognize Him and were afraid. He said “do not be afraid. It is I.” Then when He got in the boat, the wind stopped. He asserted Himself as the One who is in control.

And I laugh because, how frustrating would it have been that the group of fishermen couldn’t row across to the other side? They’re the experienced, professional ones. If anyone should’ve been able to cross the lake… it should’ve been them.

This… this I have to grab a hold of. Because I will continue to row and row and row, in my own strength, and fight against the storm, until He speaks, until He shows up (but I can trust He will!), until I fix my gaze–I can’t do any of this without Him.

The thing is, knowing that He’s got my back is what helps me regain focus when I lose it.

A fixed gaze is what keeps me steady even when I feel like I’m relentlessly rowing.

The Weakness of “Why?”

Who, what, when, where and why—the 5 w’s that seem to be a brilliant template for gathering information and solving problems.

I remember learning the 5 w’s in school and it was seemingly the most logical way to complete a story. I felt like I had a “secret formula” to writing and solving life’s deepest issues (like I even knew what that meant). And when they added the “h” (for “how?”) my mind was blown—endless possibilities seemed to come alive.

Beyond that, there was such an emphasis on the 5W1H that I felt as though, if I couldn’t answer one of them, then the story was incomplete.

So, what do you do when an aspect is missing?

I don’t remember what we were taught in school if this were the case. I mean, what happens if we don’t know the “when”? Does it matter? Should we choose a different approach or stop writing altogether? I digress.

Many times since then I’ve pulled out this “secret formula.” It feels… comfortable—all my questions answered. But now that school is far behind me and I’ve had to actually deal with the real world and couldn’t simply “make up” stories and always decide the 5 w’s for myself, I’m learning the need to change this thinking pattern.

I’ve realized that I can’t just throw the entire “story” out anymore when questions can’t be answered.

Especially the “why.”

For someone who has been through junk in their past, “why?” seems to be a natural question to ask—and it is!

But I want to propose something for those of us who are trying to navigate areas and patterns of pain and brokenness (something I’m only beginning to learn myself, but am seeing the benefit of):

While I see great benefit in asking “why?” in other circumstances, in this context, what if instead of focusing on the “Why?” we focused on the “What?” or “How?”

“Why?” You may ask. (notice what I did there? And yes, I think it’s funny)

Many of us when we focus on the “why” conclude that “why?” is unanswerable and we end up in an emotional tornado.

And the reality is, we will never find a good enough answer for that question—we will keep searching.  “Why?” often leaves us in a constant state of feeling unsafe, out of control, questioning every motive and every word, etc. It’s a horrible place to live.

But what if we moved away from the “why?” and began to ask “what can I do now?” Or, “how can this fit into God’s greater story?”

These questions bring you into the present, removes the focus from the past, and helps you realize that you are actually in control and have a choice as you move forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing “stuffing” all your feelings away and not working through them with the Lord, someone you trust, or a counsellor. Ask the “why?” if you need to. God can handle your questions. In fact, He loves to hear your heart.

But just because you cannot answer one “w” doesn’t mean that your story is over.

Jeremiah 29:11— For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God is the master at writing stories—and you are woven very intricately into the fabric of His.

So hear me:

Your story is not over yet.

How can your story display Him?

Poking The Beast

Disney just released a live action remake of Beauty and the Beast which made an estimated $350 million worldwide this weekend.

Beyond the impact it’s made financially, I would imagine most people have felt its repercussions through conversations and debates, facebook posts and defriends, and being faced with the age-old question pertaining to anything in life that really matters—where do I stand?

You may even ask yourself does it even matter?

I’m not going to tell you what to do in this post. I’m not in this for debates or disagreements.

But I am going to share my “2 cents” for why I think it does matter where you stand on this, especially if you’re a Christ follower.

As I’ve shared before, I came out of homosexuality. (I know. Shocker.)

While it’s not something I struggle with currently, I try to be wise about what I watch, what I say, where I go, etc.

Any allusion to homosexuality, especially in media, makes me uncomfortable. I’m not “un-loving” or “bigoted” or a “hateful Christian who doesn’t understand.” In fact, I understand far too well the pain that sin causes (homosexuality in this case).

Just as I wouldn’t put an recovering alcoholic in a bar, remove accountability software from a porn-addicts computer, or give a compulsive spender a credit card, I would not invite a friend to see a movie that openly condones homosexual behavior, and I for sure wouldn’t go myself.

I’ve spent far too much time wrestling with the Lord for freedom in this area to purposely put myself in a position to be reminded of it and then spend double the effort guarding my thoughts and making war in my mind.

It’s called wisdom—get some.

If you’ve never struggled, you know someone who has. Even if you don’t actually know it.

Does your freedom give you a license to make someone else stumble?

Beyond that, I would propose the larger issue at hand is this:

The emphasis upon, and acceptance and normalization of, homosexuality in our culture that is largely propagated by media.

Disney with this movie (and other subtle instances in the past that no one has batted an eye about) is trying to normalize sin (here homosexuality) and change attitudes toward it.

Homosexual behavior clearly is against God’s design which is defined in His Word.

I’m not shocked and don’t really expect Disney to have any convictions here. They’re operating from a secular worldview and are feeding the demands of this generations appetite. But, I am shocked that many Christians don’t have any convictions regarding it.

I’ve heard the rebuttal that the references to homosexuality in the movie are subtle and therefore can be dismissed.

Seriously?

Read this statement from Bill Condon (Director of Beauty and the Beast):

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh [the actor who plays LeFou] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff in the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Is that not enough for you to understand the impact?

Here. Another statement, this one made from a leading gay-magazine based in the UK: “Disney has officially made history with its first on-screen ‘gay moment,’ making this a huge step for the LGBT community.”

And it’s editor-in-chief says, “it may have been a long time coming but this is a watershed moment for Disney… by representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural—and that will be heard in every country of the world… I applaud Disney for being brave enough to make it—and in doing so hopefully helping to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.”

The movie’s director and the LGBTQ community as a whole is looking at Beauty and the Beast as a step forward in society’s acceptance of homosexuality.

Yet we, as a Christian community, don’t think twice about it? In fact, not only do we seem to remain largely silent, if we speak up at all it’s mostly in debates about inclusion and subtleties.

Why are we ok with this? Why would you want to back this? Why would you put your money behind it?

This goes far beyond your couple hours of entertainment. The tentacles of this movement is reaching into every sphere of society and is influencing an entire generation.

When I hear of Christians praising this movie, my heart breaks.

How can we effectively love those who are struggling in this area (which means calling homosexuality for what it is—sin) and then go spend $15 on a movie that openly praises it and is pushing for societal acceptance?

What voice will we have to speak truth?

As someone who has felt its deception, who has been one on the other side and would have been thankful and excited for this movie to be released… I can tell you, we (as believers of Jesus) are losing our voice of influence.

I have said enough. But I leave you with one question:

Is your entertainment really worth it?

 

 

Other posts on homosexuality:

Truth & Grace
My Story

The Big Questions

What Is Silence Worth?