Inspired by Coldplay’s Swallowed in the Sea & Mark 6:47-56
To whom it may concern:
There are short roads that seem long and long roads that seem short. Such is the way with travel I suppose, it all depends on the size of steps we’re taking and the weight of pack we’re carrying. Sometimes, we, with grand energy, take long strides into the future believing in something that we cannot see. And sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we take small steps that are more like stumbles, so miniscule that the headwinds we face seem to simply push us ceaselessly back into the past. The loads we carry ever heavier and the road ever longer. They say the journey of a million miles begins with a single step…but more often, and even ever so lately it has not been so. It has been the journey of a mile that couldn’t be completed even with a million steps. And to you out there, to whom it may concern, we are oh so tired from walking.
Perhaps we will head out to sea, we think. We will take flight from these tired shores, these ramshackle houses and timid lives. We will face the winds and circumvent the wild waters. And we will adventure. But we remember past adventures. The night falls on before the shore clears the horizon. We press against the wind, beating against it with all our struggle. We remember that this is why we don't take adventures. This is why we've lived small. This is why we've not dared to love the world. The sea with all its dangers is swallowing us up.
And there in the shadows of the water stands a spectral man. His phantasmagoric brilliance rings familiar but strangely unsafe. Now the waters are rising into monsters. Of course we should have known. We who were tired from our mundane labors, longing for the heroicism of an anointed life went out to sea for adventure. We went out to sea and risked our days in the hopes of following Him, following this Jesus. And here we are, failing again, surrounded by the phantasms of our greatest fears.
The ghoul of the deep speaks, "It is I, don't be afraid." It is Jesus.
And of course He is both the relief of our fear and the source of it. We wouldn't be out here on this limb afloat (if we would dare to mix metaphors) if it wasn't for Him. We were trying to be good soldiers. We were trying to follow and rise and live and exist. We have been oh so TRYING all this time.
We are afraid of what He wants from us and what He stands for. We are afraid we are right about Him and we are afraid we are wrong. We are panicked that He is not the Spirit of God hovering in placid love over the water, but rather the demon deep rising to subsume us in anxiety and dread. We fear He is not so Good as He might seem.
And then he gets in the boat. Winds calm. Storms cease.
Our fear cannot rightly tell the whole story. The lake storm is not the first storm. It is not the last storm. We head out onto the waters of risk and wonderment as brief interludes in our life on the road. We travel on, risks and fears and winds and storms and boredom and hiddenness and smallness and largess and broken wheels and all. We live the Oregon Trail of our lives recurring.
You, who this may concern, it is the road of your houses and jobs, your struggles and hopes, your possibilities and dreams. It is the road on which Jesus walks and sings and picks up beggars on the corner, hires tax collectors, leaves little girls for dead while he makes them a sandwich.
Perhaps there is more to our travels than the weight of our packs and the size of our steps. Yes, perhaps just as much all we bring with us and how well we carry it, there is something to the land through which we travel, the view from these wandering strides. Light loads and quick steps are no consolation within isolating sands and desert winds. And simultaneously no heavy burden or wandering foot can compensate for the walk we walk together. The boat returns the shore and we walk on through the real streets of our days, hand in hand, life in life. The meandering boulevard. The rows of homes. The laughing children on street corners. Jesus talking to women-at-wells. The hand you bring to hold me up when walking becomes stumbling, when stumbling becomes flat-on-face. I can see us there. You, to whom it may concern.
I write this to you from the long end of the short road. I write this to you because I believe in you and think perhaps you believe in me. I say these words in this jumbled sequence because of the singular possibility that in the hearing of my travels it is you that they may concern. It is possible that just beyond here we will be somewhere we both can live. A place where we can live together. Thriving and not consumed. Shouting and not swallowed. Under the bright sun and not under the crashing waves.
Oh, what good is it to live
With nothing left to give
Forget, but not forgive
Not loving all you see
All the streets you're walking on
A thousand houses long
Well, that's where I belong
And you belong with me
Not swallowed in the sea
On this short road that seems long, the seas of despair nipping at every heel and the steps getting wearier with each pass, there seems so little left to give. But maybe the roads are changing. Maybe I will find you out there and we will find that which we concern. We will stand on the streets and above the waves in which Jesus walks. The houses in whose yards He stands and He will look into both our eyes, you whom this may concern, and He will say, “See these streets, each one a thousand houses long, that’s where you belong. I belong with you, and You belong with me…not swallowed in the sea.”
To whom it may concern… in the look of His face I see it. We belong with Him, I with you and you with me… not swallowed in the sea.