|The Hand of God by Yongsung Kim|
"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."
I want to tell you a story. Perhaps you've heard this one before.
The scene was the Sea of Galilee, on a dark, stormy night. Some fishermen were aboard a ship, where they had been tossed on the swells through the night. Near dawn, one of them spotted a figure out on the water. They were frightened. Someone said, "It is a spirit!" And they cried out for fear.
But straightway, Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.'
There was a young woman on board this ship; her long brown hair more tangled than usual on account of the high winds. When she saw her master her whole self yearned to be where he was. He beckoned her out with his eyes.
His call left her feeling conflicted. She knew the rule of the fourth watch, and it certainly seemed to her that things couldn't possibly get worse after the storm she had endured. However, she was also a little too aware that her faith wasn't perfect, and that what faith she did have might not keep her upright on the waves.
She made her decision quickly. In a moment of impulse, she flung herself out onto the water.
And if only for a split second, it held her. But then the surface of the sea did what surfaces of seas often do. She dropped. She cried out, "Save me!" But Jesus did not reach out his hand. Jesus did not move so much as one inch from his position.
And so she sank. Minutes passed as she plunged deeper and deeper into the turbulent sea. And all the while, with her fading breath she choked out "Save me! Save me!" But to no avail. For each plea, deeper she sank. And the deeper she went, the darker it got. There was no starlight, no morning rays of dawn streaming down through the water anymore. Only pressure and depth, and a truly oppressive absence of all things life-giving.
And she didn't know how long she was down there. Was it minutes, was it months? Would she reach the bottom? She doubted it, as no one would ever go deeper than Jesus did. But even still, she had certainly gone deeper than she had ever imagined was possible.
She began to doubt that Jesus could rescue her; or more especially that he would. Perhaps she was a special case; the exception to the rule of knocking and opening. There is something truly exhausting about using one's dying breaths to cry out for help to a silent God. She had no breath left.
And that's when she died.
More time passed.
And then at some indiscriminate point, through means that can only be deemed miraculous—the spark of life returned to her chest; her eyes opened. How was it done? She did not know. At this point she had lost so much faith in Jesus that she could not connect her kind of resurrection with his power over death. And besides, she was still just as deep in the water as she was when she died.
And that's when she heard it, a voice. A voice which somehow pierced down through the thick waves, all the way to her position in the sea. It reached her ears, then her heart.
"It is time."
And she guessed that it was Christ. She guessed that it must be time for her to return to the surface. But it required work—it required swimming. It required re-discovering things like how to live when she couldn't breathe and how to trust and how to really believe—believe that just because Christ did not rescue her before didn't mean that he wouldn't now.
And so she began the ascent.
And as she swam she hoped. With the first few strokes it was a whimpering, wounded hope, but with each successive kick that feeling grew stronger. It was a puzzle, a paradox. Nothing had yet entered her field of vision that would validate her hope strengthening, her trust increasing. As she continued to swim her hope began, finally, to become what hope was always meant to be: an expectation. She was almost positive that when she reached the surface she would see the Lord's fingertips stretching for her hand, finally ready to catch her and pull her up.
And so she will continue to swim until she is.
I've been learning more about how this kind of healing works as I've studied the stories of three women's interactions with Christ in the New Testament: the woman taken in adultery, the Samaritan woman at the well, and the woman with the issue of blood.
My next three posts will be about them. I think that their stories will help me to keep swimming.