Although I am a word person and not especially visual, sometimes a word picture grips me and touches me where the words themselves may have just floated by without my noticing their import.
That happened recently when I heard a teaching on Hebrews 4:16. “Let us draw near…so that we may find mercy and grace to help in time of need.” The word help in Greek is translated boetheia and has a powerful, rich meaning. In the era of wooden ships, when a vessel was at risk, perhaps not considered strong enough to withstand the storms that might threaten it, 4 or 5 turns of cable wrapped rope would be wound around its hull to ensure its safety. It was bound up, strengthened, able to survive the storms.
About 18 years ago I cared for my granddaughter one night a week while my daughter was taking a night school course. I remember walking, rocking and singing – mostly singing a lullaby I had first heard on a Disney tape.
I loved the words to this song and was delighted to find it today on Youtube. The lines, ‘faith is keeping her afloat, and ‘the law of the ocean is that you shall never fail,’ held great meaning for me. There were long stretches of time where I felt I might not hold together. I wish I’d known then the picture of that word boetheia then – though even without it, I was held together.
And who knows what gets embedded during those times because some years later that same granddaughter, in turn, painted this picture for me.
Being raised on the prairies, I never saw the ocean until I was almost twenty, and I did not like it. The shoreline was littered with all manner of weird creatures, the water was salty, and you could not trust it not to knock you off your feet. Not at all well mannered like the lakes on the prairies.
I wrote this poem at a time when my life felt particularly out of my control.
Rip Tide The ocean is a single-minded beast and powerful like rivers rarely are. I am most respectful of its nature; you cannot push the ocean very far. I was content to paddle in the shallows. I thought it wise to wade close to the shore. I could not plumb the ocean, I was careful to go so far and not a fathom more. But though I never gave it half a chance, and only tip-toed till I reached my knees, an undertow of violent foreboding, sucked me out and carried me to sea. How am I to live in this environment? A flounder on the shore would do as well as I, when all I touch and see is foreign, and I am captive to its every swell. I used to pick my way and live with caution, careful not to put my faith to test. Now that I am carried by the ocean I’m doing what the ocean thinks is best.
We are still in the middle of this storm brought on by Covid 19, we have no idea of the long range impact it may have on our country, its economy, culture and freedom. There are times when I feel a small shudder of fear. And then I remember I am being carried by God and that I don’t see the whole picture.
I miss gathering together with my church family where I was regularly strengthened by worship, word, prayer and the care of my friends. We are doing that as best we can, but virtual fellowship is not quite the same.
Yet, much as the fellowship of believers strengthens and encourages us, ultimately our fellowship must be with God Himself, 1 John 1:3 “…truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ.” Not bad company in the midst of a lockdown. There’s wisdom, strength, direction and boetheia available – enough for all.