December 9, 2020

Lessons We Learn

My dad governs his home the same way he enjoys living, chaotically. Getting to visit him as kids was an event we looked forward to for weeks in advance. My siblings and I would begin planning our next trip before we even left; because at a house with no rules the sky’s the limit.

Having a father who lived like a teenager allowed for some downsides. Beside always returning to our mother with a new ailment—whether a broken foot or an untreated flu—we got used to arriving to ramen noodle cups littering counters, candles burning to cover unidentifiable odors, and a questionable amount of TV dinners lining the freezer.

Knowing that after our arrival the home would be reduced to further chaos, my sister and I got into the routine of feigning exhaustion the night of our arrival so that we could turn in early, then sneaking out in the middle of the night to clean the apartment top to bottom—the classic “one good clean before mayhem.” As midnight rolled around, we got to work. Hair pulled back and gloves on, we crept around the house cleaning anything and everything in sight.

The newest additions to the dining room were a couple fake plants Dad had found and proudly “arranged” himself. We decided to wipe down the leaves together. In a scene I can liken only to a biblical plague, small bugs shot from every root, branch, and crevice of the plant. A scream broke past my lips before my brain fully comprehended the magnitude of what was happening.

In the seconds I remained frozen, my little sister shot into action. Armed with spray bottles of disinfectant, she charged the vase. Her fingers on the plastic triggers, she fired in rapid succession, dousing the critters as thoroughly as possible.

“Don’t just stand there!” she bellowed. “Hold the line! Hold the line!” Awakened from my stupor I focused my efforts on the floor, the path of their escape. Spray bottles could only do so much. I rushed to the sink, filling cups of water and throwing them wherever I saw movement.

Hysterical, my sister joined in the screaming, which soon led to fighting. We crashed around the house in a scene of utter chaos; all the while Dad was fast asleep in the room across the hall, blissfully ignorant.

Were we put at ease knowing that even as our father slept, his presence meant we couldn’t be too far into harm’s way? No, not at all. I wanted him to come out and banish the bugs, setting things right the way we expect fathers to do.

With Jesus in the Storm

We Christians are accustomed to the storms and chaos that often rage around us. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we’re fighting alone. We wait for God to intervene and send us a sign, to let us know that we’re on the right path, only to be greeted with silence.

We are familiar with the story of the disciples out at sea with Jesus and a storm begins to threaten the safety of the ship (Matt. 8:23-27). As the boat crashes through the waves, Jesus sleeps on, undisturbed. The disciples are scared out of their minds, worried for the safety of their lives. They shake Jesus awake, showing Him the storm that rages around them.

But upon awakening, all Jesus asks is, “Where is your faith?”

I’ve always read that story and wondered how the disciples could have been afraid, knowing that Jesus was with them. They should have known that He was in control. Yet all Christians at some point in their lives are guilty of this. Maybe we don’t even realize the hindrance it causes our faith.

As I’ve grown older, the story has begun to take on a new meaning. I think the disciples reacted in fear because they didn’t expect the storm to happen in the first place, since Jesus was in the boat with them. They assumed immunity to storms of this magnitude because of Jesus’s presence alone. We Christians forget this when we can’t understand why we have to weather storms at all.

Faith for the Future

Lately, storms have felt anything but few and far between. We live in a divided country, a pandemic rages around us, and our lives are shifting enormously. As a student preparing to graduate and move further into the world, I have found it easy to be overwhelmed as I gaze into the uncertainty around me.

But when I voice these fears, I sense that I am being asked, “Where is your faith?”

God never guaranteed immunity from storms. He never said we wouldn’t go through trials. God’s presence was never a guarantee that storms wouldn’t happen; it is a guarantee that we will have peace in the midst of them.

Gabrielle Nappi studies at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.