(With apologies to Malcolm Boyd)
Are you sailing with us, Jesus?
Because I’m on this boat that is supposed to be your boat, with crewmates who also report to you. We’ve got our orders. We’ve got a compass, and a rudder, and a sail. So you’d think that we’d know what we’re doing. But we don’t.
Sometimes it’s a real mess here onboard, Jesus. We have people fighting for the wheel and the spyglass; arguing what to do next; tripping over the riggings; falling on their backsides when the deck gets slick. Things don’t get done that should be done to keep things shipshape. Sometimes, when I really need help, I look around me, and everyone else has gone below; I’m here all alone. And every so often we have a man or woman overboard, Jesus. It’s terrible – in the midst of our not getting it right we hear a scream, and then we see them, flailing in the water; sometimes we can pull them out of the drink but sometimes the waves are too high, and the boat is going too fast, and all we can do is cry, and pray. And sometimes, Jesus, I think about the ones who may quietly slip off the deck and into the water, and we don’t even know it.
Are you sailing with us, Jesus?
We’re always moving against the current. Sometimes we get so tired, Jesus. And then when the storms come, and the waves crash into us, and the boat lists crazily from side to side until we’re sure it’s about to go under…sometimes we start wondering if you really are in charge, Jesus. We lose heart. We begin to think that maybe you were just a unique and engaging individual caught up in a Big Idea spun out of control, and that our enterprise here on the sea is romantic folly; that you're mostly a story that we tell ourselves so we can stop shaking for awhile. We worry that maybe you are not only one of us, but nothing more than one of us…another terrified, confused person hanging on for dear life like the rest of us, until a wave heaved you over the side and into the chaos. And that terrifies us even more, Jesus, because that would mean that we're out here all alone.
Are you sailing with me, Jesus?
Sometimes, on those days when it seems that everyone has fled the deck and it’s just me up here, looking out onto an endless horizon with no shore in sight, it gets lonely. And frightening. I know -- I mean, I think I know -- that you picked me for your crew. Once when I was so small that I didn’t know who you were, or what a boat was; I only knew what water was, but I didn’t make the connection until years later, when they told me. And then there was the time when I jumped ship, and you came looking for me – that moment when our eyes met again -- they were your eyes, weren't they? -- there in that foreign country, and something about you made me want to get back on board even though I didn’t want to. But – the thing is – I don’t know what I’m doing here, Jesus. I don’t know my fore from my aft; to tell you the truth, I don’t even know if that sentence makes any sense. I can’t tie knots. I can’t climb up the mast. I don’t know how to work the rudder or the sails. Jesus, I don’t know how to swim. All I know is that I’m here, now.
Jesus, there's something odd out there on the water. I need to get a better look. Where's that spyglass? Maybe it's the moonlight. Maybe I've spent too much time here at the railing, staring out into the void. But I need to see what it is. I've loved talking with you like this, Jesus; I hope we do it again, soon.
Walking on Water by Bertrand Bahuet