One of the great things I remember about growing up was our town. I knew almost everybody who lived there, its history and its hills and forests. One of the best parts of the area was the river about a quarter of a mile away from my house, a deep, wide, saltwater river that welcomed me any time I went to visit it. I loved it when it was calm and also when it was stormy.
One of the things I remember best was a fishing trip on my family’s boat in the summer of 1958. Daddy piloted the small cabin cruiser. Mama brought fried chicken and potato salad in case we didn’t catch any fish to eat. My brother and pregnant sister-in-law came along on the lovely, calm summer day.
An hour or two into the outing, a rather violent storm blew up suddenly. Even though we had pulled down the canvas curtains on the deck cover to protect us from the wind and rain, it didn’t take much imagination to mentally “see” the waves with their white caps and troughs as we felt the rocking motion. I loved the movement, the sounds of thunder, and the waves lapping against the sides of the boat. My sister-in-law was probably praying hard for Jesus to come and calm the waves in between her bouts of nausea. I trusted Jesus, but I also trusted Daddy would pilot us safely through the storm.
Memory took me back to that fishing trip so many years ago as I read the Eucharistic gospel for today. Being in a small boat on raging water some distance from shore can make for some anxiety. I’m always a bit surprised that the disciples, at least the fishermen among them, had such fear of being swamped and drowning. I was probably too naïve to even think of such a thing when I was on our boat, but I’m sure the adults had it at the back of their minds. We didn’t see Jesus walking across the stormy water toward us. However, the disciples appeared to be very relieved to see the master, who was able to still the winds and waves.
There are times in life that feel very much like being in a tempest, whether I am on a boat or sitting in my living room. I have a feeling everybody thinks like that at one time or another. We may not see Jesus walking on water or even coming in through the front door. Still, there are times when I call on Jesus to calm the storm and get me safely to solid ground. I know I still have to trim the sails and man the tiller, but I trust Jesus to provide the compass setting and the clear skies that will enable me to get back to shore. No matter what I ask Jesus to do for me, I’m sure he also expects me to do some of the work myself rather than depending on him to do everything.
Years after that fishing trip, I was on another, larger boat on a much larger body of water halfway around the world. I was on a 50-man fishing boat full of sailors and their wives and girlfriends. It was a beautiful day, with waves that made the boat rock like a cradle. So many of those aboard, sailors included, were regularly feeding the fish. At the same time, I scampered up to sit on the bow to enjoy the motion. I wasn’t seasick at all, despite being pregnant. I loved the ride and thanked God for providing something so enjoyable. I knew I was being looked after.
I hope heaven has rivers, oceans, boats, and occasional storms, just like I hope it has forests, hills, and mountains. Fishing would be nice, but I think I would settle to sit on the bow of a boat, leaning back against the cabin window, enjoying the sun on my face, the rocking of a vessel beneath me, and the feeling of peace that comes from God’s grace and simple happiness. Jesus would be there, I’m sure, storm or no storm.
Image below: My river, property of the author.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, Baroque and Renaissance music lover, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.