Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Ship Wasn't Made for Safety

Three years ago, I went to Europe on a mission trip of sorts. While I was there, a group of German Christians prayed for me. The prayer I remember most clearly went something like this. "When I see you, I see a sail boat. The Holy Spirit fills the sails and directs the ship where He wants it to go."

I walked away feeling encouraged but not particularly amazed by the prayer. "How nice," I thought. "A sail boat is a nice picture." 

Two years ago, Michael and I were just beginning our marriage, and we were finding that our radically different personality types presented some, er, challenges. I'm a highly emotional, highly energetic visionary type. He's a very stable, emotionally cautious, nuanced counselor type. Around that time, we met a South American couple (at a bonfire of all places!), and they asked if they could pray for us. They said, "When we see your marriage, we see a sailboat. Hannah, you're the sails. You feel the wind of the Spirit and want to go wherever it's blowing. Michael, you're the boat. Your stability and strength provide structure and sustainability. Each needs the other in order to get anywhere." 

That was a pretty powerful moment for us. The picture of the sailboat God had given me years before had come back, on a different continent, from different people, in a different setting. What someone saw in Germany was elaborated on a bit more in Texas. And it came at a time in our marriage where that kind of encouragement and affirmation-- and explanation of what we had just done in signing up to do life together!-- was much needed. 

This morning, Michael and I spoke in church together about the ministry we've begun in downtown Dallas. We shared some of the fears we had about leaving our "bubble" to live among an unknown group of people and pledge to do life with them for the next two years. We so enjoyed speaking together, even though preparing together (remember, we're personality opposites) was a little, er, challenging! Probably more to come on that later. 

When we finished speaking, this is what the pastor said. "As you were speaking, a proverb came to my mind. "The safest place for a ship is in the harbor. But that's not what ships were made for." 

The pastor's words, although seemingly generic, spoke deeply to me. It was as if God was saying, "I see your marriage. I've seen it since before you even knew it would happen-- in Europe I spoke to you about it. I built your marriage. I put the two of you together to create something complementary. And I have a purpose for your marriage. I built it for a reason, for a voyage, for an adventure that won't be safe, but will be fulfilling." 

Today I'm praising a God who sees me. Who both delights in how He has created me and yet has given me a teammate so complementary. I'm praising a God who, in Christ, has been directing my life by the wind of His Spirit in ways I couldn't foresee and still can't imagine. And in the wake of sharing my fears of the unknown in front of my whole congregation, I'm praising a God who has called me to a life that wasn't made for safety.

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