So there I was, about to stand my first ever Navy watch onboard an actual ship. Everything had so far gone quite well on our voyage, which was taking us from Maryland to Rhode Island. We had just begun the transit, and I was feeling pretty good about how things were going. Except for one small issue.
I was getting seasick.
It was at this moment that I paused...
and reflected on what had before seemed a trivial detail. A few days before beginning the trip, the Officer in charge of our voyage had warned us about taking the seasick medication we’d been issued. However, my own pride assured me that such medication was for others…not invincible people like me.
Well, there was nothing I could do at this point. Resigning myself to the unhappy notion of standing an uncomfortable watch, I made my way to the Pilothouse and took over from the other Midshipman, who looked quite relieved to see me. My job for the next five hours was to be the helmsman; I was in charge of steering the rudders to ensure we stayed on the right course through the rainstorm. I won’t get too far into the grisly details; let’s just say I got sick during those five hours. Three times, in fact. As I yacked up the final bits of the pervious evening’s dinner, something changed.
I still felt sick; I still felt out of control. But as I breathed heavily over the railing and gazed out over the water, I saw that the sun had crept over the horizon. A new day was coming; a chance to be better. I was reminded that today gave me another chance to allow the lessons of yesterday into my life. A chance for grace to guide my life. I thought back to advice I’d heard years before: look at the horizon and you’ll feel less sick. And I did. After a minute, the waves seemed a little smaller, the rocking a little less severe. I stood up taller; I felt more confident. This unmerited, undeserved sunrise beckoned me towards recovery. I just had to look up.
Over seven years has passed since my experience in the Atlantic. As I reflect on my Lenten journey this year, I’ve been challenged in ways that I haven’t been before. To be sure, I’ve still made mistakes. In other words, I’ve refused to take my seasick medication multiple times. As Lent draws near to a close however, I know that the best is yet to come. For just as I know that the sun rises, so I too know that God’s unrelenting grace is present in my life. In fact, when I think about it, this incredible gift for me has preceded my own physical existence.
Easter, as we all know, is the crux of Christianity. It’s not a simply a commemoration of an event that has long since passed. Rather, it is the great divider of truth and deception. Paul pulls no punches when he boldly states: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith’ (1 Corinthians 15:14). I’m not uncomfortable with this phrase. Rather, I take heart in his confidence knowing that we live in the truth.
Our latest speaker, Summer Stephan, gave us some challenges as we close out our time in Lent. She mentioned taking that first big step towards something you’ve been dreaming about before Easter. She likewise pushed us to incorporate our faiths in our daily lives. I’d like to offer you three challenges of my own that you may want to consider as you prepare for, and journey through, Easter.
- There’s a homeless person you walk by every week on your way to work. There’s a friend or relative that crosses your mind every now and then that you haven’t contacted in awhile. Stop and connect with that homeless person or call that relative. In a world dominated by distraction, break free and cherish something that distractions can’t replace: personal connection with our fellow man.
- Take a day to ‘theme’ your day. Literally wake up in the morning and strive to embody a certain virtue in your thoughts and deeds. One that I tried recently is to strive to understand, rather than be understood. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t make it very far. How far can you get?
- Take a hard, objective look at your relationship with God. Consider C.S. Lewis’ ageless quote from The Silver Chair: ‘“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.’ Are you allowing God in during prayer time? Do you have a real, legitimate prayerful connection with your Creator? Are you spending enough time listening to God, instead of just petitioning?
Something I’ve had to work on in my own life is simply realizing that God’s grace is constantly present. C.S. Lewis’ quote from The Silver Chair gives me chills every time I read it. That sunrise, seven years ago, was wholly undeserved and unmerited. So too is the grace we have been freely given. I hope that this piece of writing will inspire you to realize that, through our actions, we can fully participate in the fullness of our Catholic tradition. Let’s acknowledge that we’ll fall and have to try again. When that happens, though, remember: you don’t have to look far for grace.
Because brothers and sisters, it was right there with you all along.