I don’t remember my dreams unless they are early morning nightmares where I cannot, for the life of me, get to where I’m supposed to be going. Today’s version of that: I was traveling in a tour group and somehow left my car parked somewhere (not sure why) and mistakenly thought I was close enough to home that I could just walk a few blocks to get there. But, the surrounding landmarks looked unfamiliar and big-city-like, not at all like my town! When I frustratedly failed at trying to secure an Uber (I don’t even have the app on my phone), I asked someone to point me in the direction of the W&M Law School. I got a confused look and the response, “You are in Arlington.” Then came the realization that I’d never get home. A compelling reason to wake up in a sweat! Thankfully. What a relief to know, okay, I’m in my bed, in my house, in my town, and my car is right outside! Rescued by wakefulness.
A favorite devotional book of mine is Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings. The reading for August 22 grabbed by attention because I related it to my own modern day experiences of Acts 27:44: “The rest were to get there on planks and pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.” To get the context (surrounding story) of this verse, I encourage readers to look at the tumultuous, but miraculous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome (Acts 27, whole chapter). The voyage was difficult all along, but then became life-or-death dangerous (Acts 27:9) and then a violent wind made matters much worse (Acts 27:14-15), if you could imagine.
To survive the worst storm, the crew began to jettison the cargo (Acts 27:18) and Paul assured them that only the ship would be lost, but their lives would be preserved (Acts 27:22). When Paul says, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail for Crete” (Acts 27:21), I am reminded that doing God’s work, but not in God’s way, will invite similar disaster. Doing God’s work, but not using the people He has specifically called. Doing God’s work, but not waiting on His direction. Doing God’s work, but not inquiring of Him in constant prayer. Doing God’s work, but ignoring the red flags sent by the Holy Spirit. Yes, it becomes a highly dangerous voyage, not to end well.
Yet, God, in His great mercy, will weave us out of the disaster safely, not usually by angels dramatically grabbing us out of the water, but by simple, winding paths of escape. On planks and pieces. Pain will be involved, but life is preserved. The airbags might cause damage, but you will be able to walk away with your life.
I’ve lived long enough to see unthinkable voyages. I have seen sophisticated undermining of ship’s captains, I have seen the demoralization of the crew, I have seen the emotional, spiritual, and even legal twisting of the truth to cause massive division and shipwrecks. But, in all these things, I have seen God work a simple way of escape and I have seen Him give the survivors, who floated away on the planks and pieces, eyes to see His rescue and redemption.
My dad is in his late 80’s. He has been walking with the Lord for a long time. These days, he talks about resurrection often. He loves the metaphor of the caterpillar, the cocoon, and the transformation into the beautiful butterfly. He loves the picture of hope in Jesus Christ and eternity in His presence. I share my dad’s hope. I can see that life in Christ is mostly lived in the caterpillar and cocoon stage. Some storms pass, some don’t. And serious shipwrecks do happen.
The planks and pieces of the dangerous voyage, we are sure to face – in more ways than one. But, one day, we will wake to find we reached our heavenly destination, very likely on planks and pieces of the wrecked ship. But, humbly and simply, as those whose hope is in Christ alone. We will wake up and not be lost in Arlington (I thought it was interesting that it was northern Virginia that caused the most fright). However, there will be a resurrection that provides our ultimate safe passage on the planks and pieces. It will not be a dream. It will be reality. Like the butterfly.