Finding your way out of a storm and back to shore.
If I were to ask you where you feel the safest, what would you answer?
My safe place is anywhere that has a roof over my head and a lock on the doors. Knowing that I can isolate myself from the world within these locked doors, makes me feel safe.
What do you think of when you think of a shore?
When I think of a shore I see soft blonde sand; a view of the deep blue waters; some greenery in the back; washed out rocks; a fresh breeze; a toasty sun on my skin; birds singing (or screaming); the smell of fresh oiled fries; and a big white and red lighthouse. This image brings me peaceful thoughts, and the dream of a vacation!
When we combine being safe and being at shore together as one image, we get an endless possibility of images. Think of your safe shore as your happy place, where harm is less likely to happen. My safe shore isn’t where I can lock myself away from the world in a secure building nor tan on a beautiful beach shore. After a long day, my safe shore is when I’m having a good time with my family and friends. Your safe shore could be when you’re alone reading a book; or the knowing of being stable financially; or with a partner; or a room filled with laughing children. The possibilities are truly endless.
In our lifetime, we are bound to encounter countless difficulties. I’m going to refer to these times as “Storms”. When I picture a storm, the image of an ocean comes to mind and oceans encounter many storms – small and big. A storm can be composed simply of waves; a stronger storm consists of thunder and lightning; but a vicious storm has all three combined with spitting hail. We’ve all experienced our storms and some might have consumed, if not all, a big portion of our being in that present time. Most of the time, we’re able to come out of it and continue on but have you ever felt to be so deep into a storm that you can’t find your way out of it – your way back to shore?
There’s a fascinating passage in the Bible, from the book of Matthew, where the disciples were in a boat on the lake, and it was windy. Jesus noticed that the boat was a considerable distance away in a short period of time so he walked on the water, all the way to the boat. Obviously, the disciples were spooked, I mean who wouldn’t be? So, Jesus reassures them by saying, “Take courage, it is I! Don’t be afraid.” One of the disciples, Peter, replies, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Just as Peter, many of us ask the Lord to prove his faithfulness and power – as opposed to believing the words he speaks to us. So, Jesus said to Peter, “Come.” Then Peter walked on water! My initial thought is, “How cool!”, but Peter started doubting when he saw the wind, therefore he started drowning (not so cool now). This is a perfect example of what happens when you try to do something in your own power and understanding – in other words, with little faith. Peter lacked faith in Jesus the moment that another rush of wind was heading his way, so he started drowning. Peter calls out to the Lord, “Save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him and said, “You of little faith! Why did you doubt?”. Afterwards, the wind died down.
Why do we doubt? We find ourselves often opting for the worst outcomes out of our storms but let’s remember, there is a shore waiting just for you.
Before coming to Vegas, someone in my family whom I treasure so close to my heart was diagnosed with cancer. At that time, I had been experiencing a storm of my own so this felt like the hurricane of it all. I was dealing with stress and anxiety; insecurities and self-doubt; anger and sadness; and I was the furthest I’ve ever been to God since I was saved. Being in the dead center of this storm, I found myself making excuses of why I should no longer go to Vegas. With these thoughts spiraling my mind, I’ve concluded that I needed to stay at home for this season to be a helping hand to my family. As a few days passed by, I ended up alone in a hospital room with my sick family member. Filling the quietness of the room, this person said to me, “Jamie, I don’t want you to stay here in Canada because of me. I want you to go the Las Vegas.” I’ve never met someone so selfless than this individual. I wouldn’t want them carrying the burden of me missing out on such opportunity, I thought; so just like Peter, I said to the Lord, “If this is you, tell me to come”. Soon after, my trip was back on the calendar. So, there I was walking on water: Facing the waves, the thunder, and the hail that was trying to hinder my way to take one big courageous step into this adventure. There were times along the way where I’d start to sink; but as I look back, I now know it was because of my lack of faith. Jesus led me out of the storm and safe to shore – and I am now in Vegas as a missionary.
One can have many safe shores, all depending on the situation. For example, I, arriving in Vegas was, as I said, my safe shore for the situation I was in at that present time. Now, staying in Vegas is a completely different situation. My safe shore at the moment is when I’ve tucked myself in my bed after facing the waves of my day. (The waves that I face every day is anxiety, but that may look different to you). I have realized that you must hold onto the joy of knowing that you did your best and made it through your day.
There’s a dramatic passage in the book of Jonah that I love, and it really ties in to the message that Jesus will lead you safe to shore. “The water came over me and choked me; the sea covered me completely, and seaweed wrapped around my head. I went down to the very roots of the mountains, into the land whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, brought me back from the depths alive. When I felt my life slipping away, then, O Lord, I prayed to you, and you heard me.”
Your safe shore could be a place, a person, a feeling, music and so on – the possibilities are endless and unique. It’s knowing that you have overcome something you might have never thought you’d overcome. It’s when you are finally walking on two feet again, as oppose to swimming tirelessly, with both arms and legs. The state of knowing that the battle is over – for the day or forever.
What about when you are facing something too big for you? Your arms are trembling and your legs are exhausted from swimming for too long – what the heck do you do then?
I’ll start off by saying: Nothing is too big for you.
Don’t lack faith in yourself, and in God. Let go of all control that you are holding on to. Seriously, let go of it. This way, you are making a way for God to come in and do His thing. Ask Him for help, and watch all things unravel before your eyes. His guidance might not go the direction you hope for it to go – but that’s the very point of letting go of all control. You will sink a little deeper, but don’t let that hinder your faith – for the Lord will fish you back up to the surface. The reason he lets you sink before he picks you back up is to simply paint you a beautiful image: The image of you letting go of all things you’ve buried so deep in your heart at the bottom of the ocean, to be brought back to the surface completely restored! God makes all things new (can I get an Amen?) From there, you will be guided back to shore, safely. In the book of Psalms, it says, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desire haven.” You are able to get through anything; and remember your rock bottom is a place to begin to build.
This world holds many joys; and I encourage you to pursue them with all you’ve got because it is not easy to keep our flame burning in a world that is burning out. There will be times where your joys will be obstructed; by waves, thunder, and/or hail – but this is when your trust is being tested! The Lord only has plans to prosper you and not to harm you. If you were to throw a stick into an ocean with many waves, where will the stick be after the waves are stilled? This applies to us – when we encounter a storm, where will we be once the Lord guides us out of it?
The thing is, we don’t know – but we do know that you will be safe to shore. Your safe shore will be a place of hope and light – a place where you will not live in fear.
No storm will defeat you.
Next week I discuss my interviews with sex trade workers.
God bless; until next time…
Jamie A. Dornan
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