For many, the times feel like being on a ship at sea in a storm. It feels like the world is heaving under their feet.
Between the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic and the rawness of racial tension, a storm at sea seems an apt metaphor.
When storms threaten, sailors and ships’ captains hope to avoid them altogether or find safe harbor. Sometimes, they are too close to land that will tear their vessel apart. Other times, they are at sea and unable to steer clear of the approaching threat. Sometimes, they have no choice but to sail into the storm.
We are in such times.
When sailors have no choice, their best chance of survival is to face the waves, sailing into them. For many of us, this runs counter to instinct. Instinct tells us to turn away. If a sailor follows that instinct and turns away, the sailor will expose the craft almost entirely to waves strong enough to roll even the largest oceangoing vessels keel up. To avoid capsizing, a ship must minimize its profile, slicing headlong into the waves.
Not only must a ship turn into the waves, it should carry enough weight that it sits in the water. Wind and waves can whip empty boats side-to-side like a metronome.
A sailor also needs to maintain enough power to keep moving forward. Without forward power, a ship isn’t able to steer into the waves but finds itself fully at their mercy. In short order, the waves will turn the unpowered ship sidelong to them.
None of these actions guarantee survival, as the book and movie The Perfect Storm remind us. But they are what experienced mariners know give them the best chance of survival.
The storm around us
While some of us might have found safe harbor from the pandemic or are steering clear of racial tensions, it is doubtful any of us are escaping the storm altogether. The times are such that we are like sailors with no choice but to face the storm.
Just like any storm, what we are experiencing didn’t come out of nowhere. The ingredients for a global pandemic and global protests over racism have been present for a long time. The ingredients have come together, and now, the storm is here, and we must face it.
We must face the reality that the coronavirus pandemic is larger than us, even though the virus itself is invisible. Most of us are not infectious disease experts, and even those who are don’t have all the answers. The pandemic really is like looking out upon a heaving sea under a brooding sky. We have to keep our wits about us and turn into the waves.
At the same time that we take the pandemic for what it is, not turning away from it by seeking a return to the way things were, we also must face racism for what it is and not turn away from it.
What racism is and isn’t
Racism, the idea that any race or person is superior to another and therefore is justified in demeaning, belittling, oppressing and subjugating anyone deemed inferior is sin and contrary to God’s law, God’s will and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Racism isn’t an over there thing; it’s a right here thing. It’s not a them thing; it’s an us thing. It’s not a you thing; it’s a me thing.
Racism isn’t an outward thing. The outward expressions of racism we know so well are only symptoms of the disease inside. It’s not a law thing; it’s a thought thing. It’s not simply a behavior thing; it’s a belief thing. Racism is an inward thing.
For us to deal with racism in our country, communities and churches, we must deal with racism, not just with legislation and policies, but head-on with greater discomfort internally.
Facing the storm
Experienced sailors know the rough weather they face at sea is not the only storm they face. There also are the mental and emotional storms within the sailor. To face actual storms with any measure of success, these sailors first must deal with the storm inside them. So must we.
Likewise, just as sailors should not sail alone, we need to face racism and the pandemic together.
We must be courageous and turn into the waves. To turn into the waves means we stay ever-mindful of the command not to fear but to trust in the Lord, remembering the Lord gathers the waters, makes a way through the waters, walks on the waters and calms the waters. We must trust the Living Water to get us through our troubled waters.
We must carry sufficient weight so we aren’t tossed by the wind and waves. To carry sufficient weight means we remain filled by the Holy Spirit, the ethereal One who makes us solid.
We must keep moving forward. To keep moving forward means just that. With the heaving water around us and the rising waves in front of us, we do not stall nor give up nor grow weary in doing good. In the power of Christ, we stay powered and moving forward.
And as tired as we may be, we have to keep doing these things, not knowing when the storm will end.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. The views expressed are those solely of the author.