Getting in the Boat

Have you heard the one about the Christian fundamentalist and the approaching hurricane? Well, if you have, you’ll just have to bite your lip and think about something else like grilled cheese sandwiches or the steps involved in mitosis because it’s the controlling metaphor for this blog post, and I can’t start without telling it. So here we go….

Hurricane Klaus is approaching the south Florida coast, and the flood waters are rising. A man is sitting on his front porch when some friends come by in a Jon boat to offer him a ride to safety.

“No thanks,” he tells them. “God will save me.”

Several hours later, the water has risen to such an extent that he’s been forced to sit on the roof of his house for safety. However, this time, a boat from the National Guard comes by and offers to rescue him.

“No thanks,” he says again. “God will save me.”

Finally, when there’s nothing left but the rapidly dwindling ridge to stand on, a rescue helicopter comes by, drops a line down, and offers to pluck him, like Moses, from soon to be biblically epic waters. His answer? It’s the same as before.

The Christian fundamentalist drowns, takes the HOV lane to heaven, and when he stands before his Maker, asks, “God, why didn’t you save me?”

The Father’s reply? “I sent two boats and a helicopter. What else were you expecting?”

How could he resist such a SWEET ride!?

The joke is unrealistic (for the most part), but it does make me think of people who pursue a “prayer only” method for healing and reject any and all medical avenues for curing an illness. Am I saying that prayer is powerless? Nope. If you or someone you love is ill, you pray fervently, expecting that God has already provided the solution (See James 5:14-16, Psalm 5:3, and Mark 11:22-24.) However, you should also visit doctors because God’s solutions are sometimes more cerebral and less, shall we say, celestial in nature. It’s not that miraculous healing doesn’t happen nowadays; if the Creator of the universe wants to do it that way, He will. However, He usually has other plans in mind.

For example, I have a friend in his late twenties who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer less than a year ago. Doctors weren’t sure about his prospects, and after an exploratory surgery where it was decided they could not remove his lung, he was put on a very aggressive regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. He has spent more days than not feeling like the floor of a New York taxi cab, but he has continued to trust God and to be his beautiful, ebullient self through it all.

Many people around him have witnessed God’s unbelievable goodness because of what he has endured, and through it, his faith has been strengthened ten-fold. He’s been able to witness to people who might otherwise never have heard the good news of Jesus Christ. And I think that’s what God had in mind all along. By the way, his doctors have found that the tumor has shrunk dramatically, and in another month or so, he will be reevaluated. Don’t tell me miracles don’t happen.

The truth is that God doesn’t need all the attention and hubbub a display a healing like that would produce to get the results He wants. I think He’s benevolent and chooses instead to use us instead to carry out His plans, to be His hands and His feet.

These “get in the boat” moments aren’t only reserved for big ticket life events either. I recently had one myself that was job related. One of my tasks at work is to write articles for In Touch Magazine, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. Why? Well, writing is like walking a very taut high wire. One wrong word can throw off the flow of a sentence, and one unclear idea can mar the meaning of an entire piece. Writing is a lengthy process of moving words and phrases around until only the best ones remain in the perfect order. It’s very easy to miss the mark, and more often than not, it is also very lonely work.

When I struggle with a piece, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to work in my own strength. I can rely on the Holy Spirit to put the words He would have me say onto the page. But how does one do that exactly? Do I simply sit there and take divine dictation in a psychography session with my heavenly Father?

I think, once again, God’s way is simpler than that. I only need to be sensitive to what He wants and use the spiritual gifts He’s blessed me with to make it happen. Instead of twiddling my thumbs waiting for inspiration, I must constantly seek God’s will and search for the answers He has provided both in the Word and in the world around me. If I can always be cognizant of His presence, what I say and write will be directed by Him in a way that feels effortless.

Take the men who wrote the Bible for example. Those sixty-six books were penned by different people from all walks of life, but each word was inspired by God. That’s why there are no mistakes in it and why so many books, chapters, and verses written centuries apart are intricately interconnected. (One has only to look at the four gospels, portions of Isaiah, and Psalm 22 to see evidence of this.)

However, despite the fact that God provided the information, I can still see each writer’s personality and tendencies in their books. Each book is a beautiful marriage of the Almighty and a mortal scribe who was blessed to capture His truth. That’s why, as a former doctor, Luke’s contributions (Luke and Acts) are highly logical and rational and why David’s passion for God fill each and every psalm he penned. Likewise, Paul’s personality is also very obvious in each of His letters. For instance, he consistently uses questions and answers them with the phrase, “Certainly not!” His thoughts are deep and dense–full of information and written using the rhetorical methods he learned as a Pharisee.

All of my official training until now has been in academic writing and fiction/poetry. I have crafted a few non-fiction pieces in the past, but my body of work is limited. I also have little to no experience in journalism. Simply put, I have the passion, but I need practice—time behind the keyboard if you will— to get my writing chops in better shape. For awhile, I hemmed and hawed about what to do, thinking that if I simply waited on God to provide the right words, my writing would improve without any outside effort on my part. However, I came to realize that’s the literary equivalent of passing on the Jon boat.

That’s why I enrolled in a creative non-fiction certificate program at Emory University that began this week and will take me a year or so to complete. I believe working with an instructor and other writers who offer constructive feedback will help strengthen my skills, tell better stories, and write more compelling prose. I’ve gone into this grand experiment with the mindset that, in the end, I will be a more effective servant having honed my talent using the whetstone He’s provided. Rather than doing this to be famous or make a ton of money (which is highly unlikely given my choice of career field), I’m attempting to follow Paul’s advice to Timothy—“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Just as the hurricane of stress appeared on the horizon, the pieces of the solution fell into place. To me, that’s the kind of everyday miracle only God can provide, and I am grateful to serve a King of such flawless wisdom and perfect judgment.