In the previous Hard, there were a precious few things I held tightly to in order to make it out. There were certain people who spoke truth to me in a way I could hear it. There were things that made me feel alive and have hope that this wouldn’t last. There were sweet verses or quotes that felt cut-to-fit for the specifics of my season. There were words and phrases that I could whisper to keep my heart grounded in truth.
And there was the Jesus I found in that Hard. He was a deeper, bigger Aslan than I had experienced before.
But in a new season of Hard, it is an alarming thing to discover that things have changed.
It is disarming to discover that the verse that spoke to me in the Hard of a previous season no longer carries the weight it once did. If anything, that verse feels like words meant for someone else, not words meant for me. I started to look for Jesus in the familiar ways and couldn’t seem to feel him the way I once did. The person I thought I’d be in this new place doesn’t seem to be here. I find myself confused and discouraged by the person I becoming. I’m weaker and more desperate, less sure and more tired than I ever would have liked or chosen. I start to realize that things have changed in this Hard. I have changed in this Hard. And when my world feels like it is falling apart and I so desperately want something to hold onto, the loss of those familiar comforts can be one of the deepest blows of all.
In the shipwreck, you may feel like you lost it all. Everything is in pieces. But in the fragments, there are planks that remain–pieces of desire, of dreams, of hope, of imagination, of longing, that rise to the top of you even now. They are no longer attached neatly together, but they are still afloat in the swirling chaos of you. You may not need all of them. Perhaps you don’t need many of them. But you almost certainly need one of them. Wherever and however you feel your soul still adrift, grab hold of one of them. Don’t cling too tightly to it; let the weight of it hold you up rather than the other way around. Anything that’s survived by now surely has something of Spirit’s power in it….You may think you will not survive the waves, but Spirit comes in the wind–to guide your giant soul and your tiny plank to a place called home. You can’t cling to the God you knew, only to the God you can know now.
(How to Survive a Shipwreck ,75, 77)
One of the words Jesus gave me a few years ago was “open hands.” It was as if he was asking me in advance for my trust for whatever he would take out or put in. That year was a shipwreck year to be sure. There was so much unexpected pain and heartache, coupled with unprecedented grace and care. Jesus met me in beautiful, personal ways and I held tight to him and everything he placed in my hands.
The year after, Jesus gave me the words “hold fast.” Only Jesus could have known that a shipwreck year would follow that first shipwreck year. I could barely find myself in the wreckage. What on earth did it mean to be me when I turned out so differently than I imagined? What did it look like to find Jesus when I couldn’t even find myself? I revisited familiar scripture passages, books that had been a lifeline in the past, anchors in a previous storm, hoping to find something or someone to hold onto. I wanted to hold fast, but didn’t know how.
It didn’t look the way I thought it would. I didn’t look the way I anticipated. The Jesus I discovered wasn’t the same Jesus I had found in a previous shipwreck. There were so many “less” essentials than I would have imagined. And it turned out holding fast looked a lot more like letting go.
I had to let go of what I thought would happen. I had to let go of the picture in my head of who I would become. I had to let go of how I thought I would experience Jesus. I had to let go of what I hoped and dreamed.
And on the other side of letting go and truly opening my hands, I found something to hold fast to. A plank here. A board there. A hand to hold. A ray of sunshine. A dream returned.
It was so different than I could have imagined, but then again, I never tend to imagine a shipwreck when I picture my future life. But as I gave up my ideas of “should” and “supposed to” and anything that looked familiar, that’s when I could see Jesus.
Jesus had been there the whole time. He was different than I expected so I missed his presence on my first and second glance. But he was there the whole time. Jesus was with me. He was the one sending me a phone call from a friend to pray with me. He was the one who gave me that book at just the right moment. He was the one who sent someone to tell me, “You’re so very brave and you’re doing a good job.” He was the one who sent me flowers and sunshine. He was the one who sent me that line in a song. He was the one who sent me a silly baby face, knowing I would love it. He was the one who dried my tears and saw me in my darkest moments.
I’m still in the shipwreck in so many ways. I say these things not as someone on the other shore, but someone still in the waves. I’m holding onto my plank as we speak. I’m still sorting through what it means to be me, what it means to follow Jesus and what it means to hold fast and let go.
It looks so different than I thought. I am different than I thought. Jesus is different than I thought.
I think it is okay that I can’t find the person I thought I’d be or the Jesus that I used to know. I trust that the Jesus I’m discovering is the one who put the plank in my hands and is dragging it through the waves towards the shore.
I never would have chosen the shipwreck. Yet, without the shipwreck, I would have missed this deeper, bigger Aslan. I would miss this braver, tender person I’m becoming. I would miss the beauty that can only come from being in the waves. I would miss seeing myself as I really am and all the grace that is mine for the asking.
And I wouldn’t miss those things for anything, even if it means a shipwreck, because Jesus is in the water with me.
Have you ever read a book and felt like it was meant for you? How to Survive a Shipwreck reminded me of an afternoon where I sat in the middle of the sidewalk next to my friend in her hot mess moment. People walked around us, and we just sat and talked and cried. This book felt like that, except that I was the friend in my own hot mess season and Jonathan Martin sat down next to me. Jonathan offers his own story and the hard-earned lessons he learned in the midst of his life “shipwrecking.” He uses all sorts of sea metaphors to convey truth and it really, truly works. I’m still absorbing all the courageous things he shares.
I want to buy this book for every friend who is going through something awful and hard. I’m so grateful for the message, the timing and the truth of this book. It is brave, honest and feels like hope when you don’t have any left to muster. I want everyone to read this book. A+ for me.
*BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “How to Survive a Shipwreck,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255