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Perspectives: Where can we turn to make sense of it all?


Overwhelmed and frightened. Those fearsome “storms” in life can whip through us, leaving us bruised and beaten. Where, then, can we make sense of it all?

I call to mind another great storm:

A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and the disciples woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ Mark 4:37-38.

The disciples were finding out that following Jesus would lead to some unforeseen and frightening moments. A giant of a storm rose up on the Sea of Galilee: the winds there can turn a pleasant day into a violent and unexpected tempest.

After Jesus spent a long day teaching on the shores of the Sea, he and his friends set off in a boat. Understandably, Jesus needed some sleep after that busy day among the people.

But as the storm begins to rage, it throws the disciples into panic. These men knew the sea; some were seasoned fishermen — maybe not on the Deadliest Catch — but they had seen their share of storms. They knew the risks, what to look for in the skies and the way to handle the boat. But they were more than shaken — they were fearing for their lives.

There is no doubt we share this innate part of humanity — facing unexpected and daunting “storms” of another kind.  Those unforeseen encounters and events that grip us tightly. We have all endured fear and said, in one way or another, “Lord, don’t you care that I am perishing?”  

Many of us have had hopes slip away — loss, debt, watching our families struggle. We may begin to think that we are powerless to help ourselves, and there is little relief in sight.

Can I say to my worry, as Jesus did to the storm: Quiet! Be still!  And more importantly, where do I turn to make sense of it all?

I believe the answer is that we turn to one another. I believe we must help each other and become a listening community. We are, after all, Jesus’ hands and feet, his eyes and ears, are we not? That is the gift that was given to each of us on Pentecost. The season of Pentecost is the time we ponder how God empowers us to live out the Gospel day to day in the context of our ordinary lives. It reminds us that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and have become God’s portion in the world.

Sometimes, as a person in a helping profession, I need help, too. Can I open up and allow someone in, ask another to listen to me? Can I unclench my fists and be vulnerable in my fears?

We can’t feed ourselves without the food the farmer grows; wear clothes and shoes without the talents of the seamstress and the shoemaker; live in warm, dry homes without the skills of the carpenter. We live interdependent lives. These take care of the “outer” self — food, clothing, shelter.

But what about my “inner” self? “Lord, don’t you care that I am perishing?”

Can we manage the difficulties of the “inner” self without the nourishment of our relationships, our community?  We need ears to hear us, eyes to see us, and hearts to love us. We need to be affirmed. We are not isolated individuals here.  We have mutual needs and we can mutually care for each other.

The good news is that Jesus has taught us the most excellent way to do his work in the world. We can give a precious gift to one another. We can slow down and give our time.  For a person who has a story to tell, our time is a treasure. We can offer the one thing we do have — our selves.  We move “listening” to a higher place in our priorities. We challenge ourselves to listen to another’s pain with an open heart —  for we are all touched by daily struggles and the circumstances of today’s world.

Yes, we are God’s safe space. We are the lifeboat for each other.

Margie Adams is staff chaplain of PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.


Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.