Get in the Boat

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” – Mark 4:35

By Jay Ide

A recent sermon by Fr. Chris regarding Biblical Strategies for Success recalled something that happened many years ago. It has two parts, but they really are part of the same narrative.

I was an ‘office boy’ to the campus chaplain at ORU my junior and senior years. During finals at the end of my junior year, Brother Bob called me into his office and asked me study with another student (‘Jim’) who was struggling. “You can use my office, 24/7. Eat with him. Stay with him until finals were over. Don’t let him out of your sight “I recalled being told. I knew this upper classman well enough. Jim was superior student, a senior. While from Indiana, his parents were raised in Iowa less than 30 miles from where I was born. I couldn’t imagine him struggling at anything. Moreover, his coursework was more advanced than mine. I wasn’t sure what if any value I would bring. And besides, my exams were almost over, and I had them in the bag. It would mean staying on a few more days rather than going back home to Iowa and my well-paying summer job. But I agreed, grumbling and whining at least in my head. I drank coffee for the first time in my life and slept little for the next 72 hours. He passed and graduated a few day later, and I have never seen Jim since.

Here’s the other story:

A year later, my grandmother in Iowa called to ask me what was going on. You see, a couple had just left her house. They stopped by, thinking that residents of that house were my parents. They related to Grandma how Jay had saved their son’s life during a time of deep depression. They were in the area visiting relatives and felt that a personal ‘thank you’ was needed.

Brother Bob never told me about depression, suicidal thoughts, or any such thing. Nor did he mention it after the fact other than thanking me for helping. He knew Jim was at risk. He knew I was a decent student as he previously sent other students for help. How different my response might have been had I known the whole story? Would I have agreed? Would I have acted differently during that time together? I might have agreed to the former, but I would probably have really messed up the latter.

When Jesus called his disciple to get in the boat to cross the lake, did he take time to detail them of the seaworthiness of the boat? Did he brief them on the upcoming weather? No, he just said, “Get in the boat. We’re going over there.”

At times, God’s calling to us can be painfully devoid of details. If the challenges ahead were well known, the boat might never sail at all. But Jesus is getting in the boat, not because the boat is sound, or that
it’s manned with a great crew, or the weather is going to favorable or even that it’s going to a great destination. All those questions point to self-orientation. What’s in it for me? What might I lose in doing so? In my instance, my self-centeredness disallowed me to discern Jim’s need.
Jesus is getting into the boat because He’s got somewhere he wants to go, something He wants to do. Where is Jesus moving in your life? Has He asked you to join him? Don’t question the soundness of the venture. Instead, take that first step. Get in the boat too. Make that journey with the confidence that Jesus is in the boat as well.

Postscript: Jim is a university president today.