About the fourth watch of the night, he went out to them ... immediately he spoke to them and said, "take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid."
Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened. Mark 6: 48, 50 (excerpt)
Normally I don't play the "Lotto" but when the stakes had reached over a billion dollars in the past few weeks, I had to submit myself to peer-pressure. The entry fee was a steep $20 bucks, twice! Because the first try, nobody won, the money rolled into an even greater measure. We didn't win; the odds were astronomically high. It turns out ONE single ticket was the winner. Because the state where the winning ticket was purchased is a state where anonymity is granted, we will never know who was the recipient of such great luck.
In my mind, I decided where I would spend the money: I would form a non-profit where I could gather a team of people I trusted for the investment in people through ministry, motion pictures, books and some ideas that have been percolating. Of course, I would pay off my relatively small mortgage and help my kids with homes but more importantly, it was about a sense of community.
In order to combat my guilt in an extravagant wish, I put some cash in the church plate and blessed triple the amount in a simple gesture for a friend - along with a card. Her tears and heart-felt gratitude were well worth the small amount I invested in lottery tickets. The money had been sitting in my drawer in safe keeping for a special occasion. For a brief moment, I saw the rawness and frailty of our shared circumstances.
Jesus saw that: take courage, it is I and then he climbed into the boat with them.
Interestingly, the fourth watch is a time where my mind is a jumbled mixture of an empty hunger and exploited thirst. Typically, I have been asleep through two sleep patterns, about four hours, when the mind automatically accelerates it's brain wave activity. The gut is empty from the previous night's meal, the heart is ripe for the tender mercies of his word. I reach for a bible, a pen and a journal to probe the perimeter thoughts that swim in the 2-3 am hour.
Jesus sees this: take courage, it is I and then he climbs into the boat with us.
Fear is an interesting tool of the robber's trade. It seeps in through sneaky ways: it is at our most vulnerable sense of aloneness. It is a subtle mind chatter that whispers, am I enough? Could I have said or done something differently? Am I entangled in the complexities of sin or in the therapeutic cleansing of His grace?
I am fully guilty. My hardened heart wrestles with the mystery of the loaves. God had just blessed the thousands with a few simple loaves of bread and fish and yet the disciples couldn't accept the fearless assault of God's intimacy into the sheer vulnerability of their (and our) thoughts moments later. No sooner had they been bystanders to a miracle when, they sat lifeless in the aloneness of their condition.
"The true mystic is always both humble and compassionate, for she knows that she does not know"
Song: I am not alone - Kari Jobe
The canvas acts as a reminder of our shared dependency on the story to reveal itself with hues of light. I have never been so alone as I am now: alone in my thoughts: alone in my condition; alone in the depth of my need to hear his words - take courage, it is I.
An "I" that means the audacity to enter into our deepest thoughts. It is an investment where the wringing of hands is late at night played out in doubt and fear. It is an investment of time where the pressing in is to wait and listen despite the stillness. It represents countless hours, days, years, circumstances, scriptures and stories; it is a relationship that calms the storm. So much so, that when we hear five simple words, take courage, it is I, we stop to listen.
The canvas is simply a starting point. In order for it to bear the likeness of life, it needs color. There was a lot of work that went into the making of paint. We take for granted the color used by Rembrandt, for example where his students helped to pound, grind and swirl elements from the earth into small heaps of pigment which was then placed into a pig's bladder where it could be squeezed out in a lump of substance upon a large stone which was then scooped onto the artist's brush. So much work BEFORE the true work even began.
Lapis Lazuli, which is a brilliantly deep blue color was the most expensive paint to make as it's elements could only be found in a certain region in the mountains of Afghanistan. Painters used this blue in the robes of the Virgin Mary. Less about the symbolism of its meaning and more about it's cost, it was a tangible expression of value. It cost a lot to make that particular shade of blue.
Time and time again, I believed being a good person was enough for the Kingdom of God. And, for the good riches found in this life too. But, more and more, I am becoming the white canvas. It is as though the pounding and grinding on the inside has been the color pigment for the artist's brush. It feels as though the experiences and thoughts and circumstances have simply been the components that make the color. I have loved so deeply, it hurts to my core and yet God calls me to something deeper. It is as if the painting on blank canvas has just begun.
I love that the sky, under brilliantly magnificent lighting, resembles the shades of blue found in the royal robes depicted by the early painters. Or the ocean, with it's shimmering penetration of light casts an illumination that cannot quite adequately be captured; it must be experienced in order to fully absorb it's value.
Until we fully and completely understand the depth of work the artist brush endures, we simply do not understand the palette in which the price was paid. Until we can fully and completely immerse ourselves into the human condition, then we are mere copies of the authentic painting under the master's hands.
So quickly I bought into the idea of a lotto ticket. The true treasure, however, is in the evolving story of the artisan's brush.
That is precisely when God gets into the boat. Time and time again, the disciples had witnessed healings and miracles and the outcasting of demons; they had witnessed the crowds gathering and heard the sermons and parables and teachings. They saw with their own eyes the times Jesus had healed and told some people not to mention anything while others, he told to tell of the miracles. The disciples were not custodians of the gospel but the elements of color for a grand and magnificent story. Where they fearful? Did they doubt? Did they fall into temptation? Did they experience grief and bewilderment? Was there joy and fellowship? It was all of those things but NOT what they thought were the stories formulated in their heads. They were simply part of an unfolding story they had yet to read.
We are each granted a certain number of days here - what will your faith say of you? As my canvas is blank, I pray God uses the timing of my birth and death, the expression of my love and my clinging of my hope into a faith story of His love.
May your walk include vibrant hues of the most costly blue pigment found in extravagant regions for there simply is not another person like you and for that, I am deeply grateful.
Pictures purchased from Adobe, song may be purchased on i-tunes, link to color found on wikipedia and stories are uniquely told from my own perspective. Copyright 2018.
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.