Rocking the Boat
July 31

Recently, whenever I say the Lord’s Prayer, I think about all the times I’ve said it before. Usually it starts with my Confirmation at Epiphany in 8th grade, surrounded by the community that built my faith before sending me off to Haiti. In Haiti, I said the familiar prayer standing on a roof in the middle of Port-Au-Prince, hand in hand with the Haitians I served alongside. After many trips to Haiti, I began school at Georgia Tech. Six months into my first year, my time and energy had been sucked into managing the fears that accompany the big change that is moving away for college. Sleeping in on Sunday felt justified over navigating finding a church, and besides, nothing could compare to the home I had at Epiphany. On Ash Wednesday of my freshman year, I headed to a local Episcopalian Church with a friend who had invited me, and to my surprise, as I repeated the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, I had to hold back tears. Thrown off, I asked myself why I was having such an emotional reaction to something I had said hundreds of times before and realized that in saying those words for the first time in such a long time, I knew that I was home. Despite my fears, regardless of the changes that happen in my life, the faith that was built up in me at Epiphany allows me to know that wherever I go and whatever I do, God goes with me and makes me a home, a place to rest, in Christ.               

Having made this realization that this fear I had been feeling was staunched when I allowed myself the familiar routine of attending church on Sunday, I found a community in a congregation just off campus on North Avenue with a few other college students. My favorite part of the service every Sunday is saying the Lord’s Prayer, because at this Presbyterian church, our pew gets a bit Pentecostal. At Epiphany, we say “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” which is the same wording that one of my friends at North Avenue says each week with me. As we are forgiving trespasses, our other friend says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and all this is said over the congregation saying, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Despite it being a bit disjointed, each of us proudly bring the words and faith we grew up with to this new community and find rest and comfort in going to God with this prayer.

To borrow an image from the story in Matthew that places the disciples on a stormy sea in a boat with Jesus calmly napping, summer is often a season with calm waters. The seas are quiet, storms are often brief “afternoon showers,” and the slower pace makes it easy to go with the flow of life. As July draws to a close and we stare down August in the school supply aisle of Target, the changes that accompany this new season start to rock the boat - a new grade, a new school, a new routine, a new home, a new role. The uncertainty of what could happen and what is to come can be overwhelming and tempt us to draw the curtains shut in an attempt to hide from our fears. In the familiar story, this is when the disciples start to get nervous. How can Jesus be asleep and so at peace at a time like this? Their heads have got to be filled with endless “What-if” questions as the storm rages on and their raging fear eventually drives them to wake up Jesus. Sounding a little annoyed, he responds, “You of little faith, why are you fearful?” and calms the seas (and the fears) of the disciples. This question can feel a little harsh since it is within our nature to be afraid, particularly in times of change. However, I like to read it as a reminder that because Christ is in the boat, we have no reason to be afraid. We are free from fear and this allows us to grow in our faith, knowing that Jesus is calming the seas.

This past year, I faced fear again when I left home for a semester in France, worried that my faith would struggle yet again with the lack of English-speaking churches and free weekends. Upon returning to the United States, my first Sunday back at what I call my “school church” I said the Lord’s Prayer alongside my two friends, as we usually do. Yet again, I thought back to all the times I had said this same prayer while in Europe: quietly in English in a French Catholic church, in an English speaking church in Luxembourg, with my family in an American Episcopalian church in France, and with a group of Presbyterian Scots in Paris. Though I was far from my physical home, I was able to find a feeling of home and love in these congregations. While we may not agree on all the finer points of theology or even speak the same language, I was welcomed into God’s family with the one prayer that reminds me of the storm-calming, fear-quelling power that we as Christians know. As the prayer in Atlanta concluded and I snapped back to my surroundings, my friend next to me leaned over and whispered, “Welcome Home.”

Happy Wednesday!


Last Published: August 1, 2019 9:02 AM