Lessons on a Boat

This last week, I took my kids on a cruise for the first time in our lives. I’ve always wanted to try cruising, but I suffer from random acts of motion sickness, so I’ve never been brave enough to give it a go…until now. I chose the shortest cruise possible and figured the worst thing that could happen was I’d take a whole lot of motion sickness medication, sleep for a week, and learn a valuable lesson. Friends reassured me that the boat would be so big that I would hardly notice the movement and that was mostly true. Thank you, Jesus, I was only sick one day and my queasy state did not cause me to miss out on a single thing! Turns out, I didn't take any medication, I only slept at night, and I did learn some valuable lessons along the way, but not all about cruising.

I found myself on more than one occasion just sitting and staring at the water... listening to the wake…breathing deep the fresh, salty ocean air…communing with my maker. I was humbled again and again as I soaked up God’s creation…in the middle of an ocean where no land could be seen from any angle. Oh, did I forget to mention this fun fact: I’m afraid of the power of water and to say that I’m not a strong swimmer would be a gross understatement. But there I was; surrounded by water and safe in God’s power.

I was reminded that God created the seas and that they obey Him. And then I was reminded that in the same way that God opened His mouth and spoke that water into existence, He breathed life into me. He breathed life into you.

God created each of us in His own imagine. Male and female, He created us. All of us in His image with complicated brains to use in creative ways. All of us created with value and gifts and talents. All of us created to carry out His purpose. All humans created to love God, to worship God, and to love other people well…ALL people. It was a good reminder. But it was just that…a good reminder. The lesson came much later, but God would need to give me a few more reminders first, so stick with me.

The last morning of the cruise, I walked through the lobby and a young girl probably Sydney’s age, 11, caught my eye. She was waiting for an elevator with people who were likely her parents. It was quiet because it was early, but this young soul felt the music deep in her heart even though none of us could hear it. She danced with energy that I wouldn’t have until after 2 cups of coffee…she danced exactly the way God created her…she was unashamed and joyful and it sure looked like worship to me as I watched her wiggle and rock out to the music only she and Her king could hear. She caught a glimpse of me watching her and she smiled wider, giggled a bit, and danced even more joyfully. I was reminded that we are to enter the kingdom with a childlike faith.

We are to walk out our journey with Jesus this side of eternity unashamed to be who we were created to be…unashamed to worship anywhere and everywhere however we worship.

And the truth is our worship isn’t confined to music or singing or dance. We worship in the way that we love people. We worship God and love people in the way that we enter into conflict…in the way that we refrain from gossip…in the way we forgive and apologize. This isn't a Becky thing, this is a Jesus thing! Jesus said this:

John 13:34-35 (VOICE)

34 So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. 35 Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.

We worship God in the way that we honor the command to love.

But all too often, we don’t. We forget who we are. We forget who created us. We forget about our royal heritage. Shame works it’s way into our hearts and the troubles of our day-to-day cause us to become reserved in our worship. We get hyper focused on the wrong doing of others and we take ourselves too seriously. We become nose blind to the wonders of God’s creation…all of it. Now, compared to the size of the ocean, humans are a small piece of that creation, but we are an important piece. We are the pinnacles of God’s creation, created in His image, for His pleasure, to do His work. Thank you Jesus for the reminder.

And as I continued making my way to breakfast, I praised and worshipped in my thoughts. Thank you, Jesus, for all the reminders. You are so good. Make me more like that precious little girl. Make me unashamed to worship you anywhere and everywhere in my actions and with my very life, God. In my mind, these all looked like big gestures and I couldn’t wait for the opportunities. It felt like such a spiritual high that my feet were hardly touching the ground. Have you ever been there? It’s a comfortable place to be…seemingly so close to heaven.

But then I was jerked back down to earth as I walked through the breakfast buffet line. I’m hungry when I wake up. The first thing I do every day is stumble half asleep down to my kitchen to make coffee and breakfast, but when you’re on a giant cruise ship, things are different. I woke up and brushed my hair and teeth and put on appropriate clothing for dining with 2000 other people and then walked to the dining room, so I was entering the hangry zone by that point. I’d waited my turn patiently to fill my plate. I walked passed dish after dish anticipating the eggs and the grits ahead of me. And just as I got up to those long awaited comfort foods, a woman stepped in front of me from out of nowhere, reached over me, and filled her bowl full of grits. She didn’t stop there. She handed that bowl to a friend and filled up 2 more bowls of grits to take with her.

I know my face was showing my hangry confusion because she caught a glimpse of it and offered up a very harsh, irritated, “Oh excuse me” as she reached further over me to top her grits with cheese.

I was so irritated by her clear lack of self-awareness...her clear self-centeredness. I was frustrated by the unjustness of standing in line the way we were supposed to and then denied at the very moment I was to receive my reward. I was in disbelief of the chick’s nerve. I mean, seriously, who did she think she was? Did I mention I was hangry?

And here we are. All the week’s reminders led me to this lesson. That moment was exactly the moment for me to worship my King unashamed.

That was the very time for me to put my faith into action. That was a God ordained moment for me to love another human well and please my creator. That was the very time for me to consider the other woman to be more important than myself. It was the exact moment that I should have stepped out of her way and said, “Take all you need”. Sure some would argue that she should also think that I am more important than herself and mutual submission would have prevented the minor inconvenience and conflict. They would be absolutely right.

But just because that’s how it should be, doesn’t excuse us from living out the call and purpose on our lives.

One day we will each stand before our Creator and answer for everything that we said and did during our journey this side of eternity. I will answer for how I worshiped unashamed in that moment with the lady at the buffet or I will answer for how I took myself too seriously, how prideful I was, how self-centered I was during that interaction.

I want to get this right, but it is very hard. It takes practice and discipline to love well. It takes living differently from much of the population. It means drowning out the voices of our culture telling us the world should revolve around us. It was a hard lesson for me to hear, but I’m so grateful I heard it and that God gently got me there to that moment. And so I wiped the hangry off my face, got my breakfast, and ate grateful for all that I had in that moment.

You see, a watching world will know that we are followers of Jesus by those small moments, not by how we follow the rules or police others’ ability or lack there of to follow those same rules. We are not going to win a lost hurting world to the feet of our loving Savior in large grandiose settings. We will win people to Jesus in the quiet moments of our daily interactions with others.

Our greatest impact for the Kingdom of heaven will be in our loving responses during our highest level of irritation, heartache, confusion, and insecurities.

That spiritual high I floated into the dining room on will never be a glimpse of heaven to someone who needs it, but my interaction in the buffet line sure could have been! The Kingdom of heaven invades the kingdom of earth when we love others well.

My hope for you…for me…for all of us would be that we would worship like the little girl in front of the elevator. My hope is that we would each take extra joy and really turn up our unashamed love for other humans even when we catch a glimpse of someone watching us worship our King. My hope is that we would remember more times than not that we were created in the image of a loving God to love people well and then go for it!

I'd love to hear how people are worshipping by living out the command to love others well. How has someone loved you well recently?