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What about the ship?

“What do you do when the one thing that you counted on to achieve God-given purpose is suddenly on the verge of falling apart?”

That’s what the guest pastor at Greater New Bethel MBC asked us in the congregation last Sunday. He was referencing back to Acts 27 in the Bible where God tells Paul to go to Rome, but his ship wrecks along the way.

“What about the ship?” he asked. “What about the one thing that was necessary to get you to your promised place of destiny? What about the ship?”

Jeanette, John and I leaned forward in our pew, ready to hear what he had to say.

“When the ship doesn’t work out,” he said,you can trust God’s plan is sure, even if the path is shaky.”

“I know that’s right!” Jeanette turned to me and shared. “God, He really helped me… just like the pastor said.”

As Jeanette said that, my mind flashed through all the ways God had moved in her life in the two years I’ve gotten to know her. I struggled to think of and express how God has moved in my own life though, especially with as much enthusiasm as Jeanette. What is wrong with me, I thought.

The pastor’s voice came back into focus...

“Losing your ship doesn’t threaten God’s plan,” he continued. “He can still use you even if he can’t use your ship. Your ship is just a means, but you are more meaningful.”

Our friend John began quietly wiping tears from his eyes. I wondered what his story was. What was the one thing he counted on that was on the verge of falling apart? What was God speaking to him? And why the heck am I not moved about all God has done in my own life right now?!

“Have you been there?” the pastor asked us. “...where you find that your ship is falling apart, that it’s all of a sudden on the verge of crashing?”

Okay, Amanda… think!

Truth from my Friends (and me)

The truth is, I haven’t spent much time with God lately. I haven’t taken time to reflect on who He is—my God, my Peace, my Savior, and my Rest. I’ve been comfortable, trying to get through life on my own, and I’ve forgotten that I need Him. But, I do need Him. Conversations with my friends on the streets remind me of that every time I see them.

“How are you today?” I’ll ask them.

“Thankful God woke me up this morning,” they’ll often say. “Thankful I get to live another day.”

The first thing out of my friend Willie’s mouth when we hadn’t seen each other in months was how God opened doors for him and how much he’s enjoying life.

And then when Matthew moved into his new apartment and the first thing out of his mouth when he prayed was, “This is my house, Lord, and you are welcome.”

Many of the people that I’ve met through The Human Impact remind me of my need for Jesus. They see their need for Him a lot quicker than most, and that is a gift. A gift that I want in my life. A gift, I think, that can be harder to pursue when life is comfortable.

What I’m Learning

“Pain, hardship, and disappointment are the seeds of empathy and understanding,” Behavioral Analyst John R. Schafer wrote.

Pain, hardship and disappointment are all parts of my story and God has used every bit of it to grow me in empathy and understanding (James 1:2-4). However, I don’t think I know pain, hardship, and disappointment at the depth that many of my homeless friends do. And to be frank, I don’t want to know these things in a deeper way—that terrifies me.

“Experience is the hardest way to learn,” my friend Dante shared with me the other day. “I’d much rather learn from a book or from others.”

He’s right! We don’t always have a choice in what we experience because life can be so difficult and scary. But we ALWAYS have the choice to learn from others to help us navigate through life and avoid the hard stuff others have had to learn through experience.

As I sit and reflect, what I am learning from my friends Jeanette and John during our time at church, and my friend Matthew as he, in prayer, faithfully offers his home to God, is abundantly clear. No one is an outlier from the ever present truth that we all need God.

While their stories are all different, they all involve severe trauma and loss of support. And if they, whether in the midst of hardship or on the other side of it, acknowledge the goodness of God in their lives, that reminds me that we need Him too and that He is good (Psalm 136:1).

We are the Same

“What do you do when the one thing that you counted on to achieve God-given purpose is suddenly on the verge of falling apart?”

Part of my God-given purpose is to walk in freedom and to help others walk in it too. It’s also to help people know that they are seen and loved (Psalm 139:14-16). The one thing I’ve counted on to achieve this, however, has been to just simply try harder. And the harder I try, the more I compare myself to others and realize how “not free” I am. My “trying harder” tactic is falling apart.

All the while, my friends live out their God-given purpose by keeping Him at the forefront of their existence...

  • Mildred tells me that God wants the glory out of her life and how she waits on Him.

  • Cece shares her poetry with me, full of praises to God and prayers for freedom from addiction.

  • Olivia calls me each week in deep gratitude to God for giving her a home.

  • James tells me that we could never underestimate the power of God.

  • Courtney washes people’s feet because he wants to give glory to God.

  • Matthew says that all he wants people to know about him is that he loves the Lord.

I can learn from them. While some of their struggles may be more forward-facing than mine, our need for Jesus is the same. And no ounce of feeling comfortable or “trying harder” is going to change that.

All of us sin and fall short. I don’t want to be like the Pharisee who looked at the tax collector and thanked God he was not like him. Instead, I want to be the tax collector who went humbly before God as he cried out for mercy (Luke 18).

And like Palm Sunday, where we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, I want to remember to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into my life 14 years ago and His triumphal entry into my life when I wake up each day. An entry of love, by grace through faith, for forgiveness of my sins, so that I may have peace and hope (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Like Jeanette, John, Matthew, and so many others, I want to remember daily how much I need Jesus. Unlike the ship, or whatever thing I may count on, Jesus never falls apart.

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