A cushion in the bottom of the boat


A wet night on the lake.  Everything is out of control.  And I chose to be here.

The wind is high, the boat filling with water.  All around me, the disciples are panicking.  They are running around, trying to fix it.  And I’m watching them, but really I’m watching you.  You, there, in the bottom of the boat.  On a cushion, of all things.  Who knows where you found that!  And you’re sleeping, unmoved by it all.

Oh, how I wish I were there.  There, curled up next to you.  Safe under your covering.  But instead I’m sitting here, watching.  I’m not moving, trying not to let their harried activity break my gaze.  And I feel silly for my stillness, hair bedraggled, face stinging from the salt spray.  I wonder if I should be grabbing a bucket.  Should I start bailing water, start doing something, anything?  Yet as I sit in this darkness, wind and waves buffeting me, I notice that these efforts of the flesh don’t seem to be doing much.

Perhaps though this incessant doing quells the rising panic in them.  I feel it too, this panic.  As I struggle to keep my eyes on you, fight to maintain this loving gaze of faith, it rises in my gut until it seems that it might drown me before the waves do.  And there you are, sleeping, as this darkness of faith consumes more than I know how to surrender to you.  There you are, as I wait for you.

And so I wait, held in this gaze of love, longing to hear those words.  Peace.  Be still.  Yes, Lord, so I wait.

You will speak them first to the storm.  The wind, the waves, even the disciples will subside.  All which is exterior to this loving contemplation, all which is straining to make me panic, all this will quieten.  The circumstances which are so testing my heart, the incomprehension of others regarding my determination to wait rather than agitate, these things will be impotent in the face of your peace.

And as the wind and waves obey your command and the people wonder who you are, my heart will wait.  It will wait until the light so bright that it burns like darkness through my soul, this light, finishes its work of cutting and cleansing.  And then, as you speak peace over me, your stillness lingering finally in my soul, then…

…then I don’t know.  Then, as so often these days, I do not know.  But you will be there and perhaps I too will lay my head on that cushion in the bottom of the boat.


Reflections occasioned by an Ignatian contemplation exercise using Mark 4:35-41 and a recent revisit of the account by John of the Cross regarding the dark night of the spirit.  Here Mark and John of the Cross are giving me language for some of what I am experiencing in the conjunction of my inner and outer life: this is my attempt to render more concrete and knowable an ongoing experience which seems somewhere just beyond the reach of words.

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3 thoughts on “A cushion in the bottom of the boat

  1. Pingback: Surfing the chaos* | The Art of Steering

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