Southeast Alaska is defined by the sea with its many moods ranging from calm to confused. A few years ago we journeyed from Wrangell to Ketchikan on the 60 foot M/V Christian during a Southeast Lutheran Clergy/Spouse Retreat. We experienced both calm and confused seas on our journey.
Confused seas are waves in crisis. The waves toss you in every direction and create confusion and instability. One cannot ride the waves to safety.
Even calm seas can bring unexpected surprises. In 1971 we took a ferry from Stavanger, Norway to Larry’s parent’s home on the Island of Ombo. A confused American tourist had boarded the wrong ferry. Two sea captains decided to do an exchange in the calm fjord. We were enjoying our window seat as the other ferry’s bow approached and crashed into our window, creating an explosion of glass! Even in calm moments, on the sea and in life, reality can crash into our calmness with shattering and confusing results.
We appreciate “calmness,” be it in our lives or on the water. It’s nice when things go smoothly and life flows along in wonderful tranquility. We sometimes long for that to be the case in our lives. But calm waters can also lead to false security. The Titanic moved ahead at full speed on calm waters only to face horrible disaster from an iceberg lurking in the foggy, tranquil waters.
Everyone can be confused by reality. We are all tossed about by such realities as death, mental or physical illness, divorce, misunderstanding, victimization, isolation, racism or misinterpretations of the meaning and values of life. They rob us of the calm waters we so desire. One unfortunate way we deal with such realities is to appear to be calm on the surface, while internally our lives are in a state of confusion.
Frequently society and individuals don’t deal well with confusion. We tend to blame and condemn ourselves or others for whatever has caused the pain. We can become infatuated with the negative. At all levels of society, we too quickly rule out compassion, understanding, sensitivity and love in our rush to find fault with ourselves or others. Such attitudes lead to diminished self-esteem in all God’s people.
Back when landlines were the primary forms of communication, we mid-century children were taught not to gossip. Of course, that did not stop gossip. Gossip was very hurtful and hateful. In today’s world, social media can be helpful and healing. On the other hand, social media has taken gossip to a totally new level that is often vile and vicious. It is tragic to see so many lives destroyed by words and actions that diminish and destroy rather than build up and heal.
Jesus was known for his ability to love people who society loved to reject. People whose lives were “confused” were his kind of people. In fact, his own life was in chaos because of his love for all humankind.
So, when tempted to jump to conclusions about painful rejection, diminishment or separation, let us not be quick to judge. Rather, let’s reflect on the situation using the God-given gifts of love, compassion and understanding. 1 Corinthians 12 has some profound words that guide us through confusion: “Are not the weak indispensable? The less honored to be honored? The less respected, respectable? The same honor to be given to all? After all, if one member suffers, all suffer together.”
May we give serious thought to how our lives flow, be the waters calm or confused. In the confusion of life, may our “waves of words” be calming and encouraging. May the love of Christ flow through us with love, understanding and compassion for all.
• Pastor Larry Rorem is a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor living in Juneau. Laura and Larry are members of Resurrection Lutheran Church and are advocates for the least of these. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.