How do we face change?
How do we move through suffering?
What happens when the changes we face deliver us to the seat of suffering?
Can we find the calm in the center of the storm?
It was the Gospel of Mark that presented for me a necessary (and immediate) foreshadowing of how to prepare for fall-out. I was recently released from my publisher, which essentially cascaded the potentiality for my podcast to continue. While I won’t go into the details of the what’s, why’s, and how’s; I will say that I feel like a tornado came and swept me off my solid ground and I am still trapped in the center, spinning and whirling in confusion and disappointment.
However, it was only hours earlier that I read Mark in a new light. I absorbed a new message thanks to the illumination of Alexander John Shaia’s masterful work which is aimed at unlocking the four-gospel journey. Shaia presents for his audience: Heart and Mind; The Four–Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation; a hopeful, theological contribution to the practice of awareness and gratitude.
Shaia introduces readers to the concept of Quadratos, which is a fourfold process of transformation.
Four early communities wrestled with four distinct sets of challenges when faced with four distinct sets of historical circumstances that prompted four deep questions requiring answers.
There are four universal paths to spiritual maturity. There are four levels of healing needed after trauma in order to recover psychological balance. Early Christians commonly placed the four texts into a specific sequence and read them that way in most communities until the seventh century…
The four individual texts, set in their ancient sequence, disclose what we can now know and celebrate as one seamless Gospel- the fill internal/external journey. The great and immutable design. The heart and mind of God that moves all creation.
The four progressive paths of Quadratos correspond to the four gospels and the four great questions of the spiritual life.
What are the four great questions of the spiritual life?
- The First Path: How do we face change? (Climbing the Great Mountain with Matthew)
- The Second Path: How do we move through suffering? (Crossing Mark’s Story Sea)
- The Third Path: How do we find joy? (Resting in John’s Glorious Garden)
- The Fourth Path: How do we mature in service? (Walking Luke’s Road of Riches)
The Other Side
Mark is about crossing the stormy sea. Mark’s words combined with Shaia’s development of Quadratos; provides for me, a glimmer of hope in the uncertainty I now face.
It’s all serendipitous- particularly Mark 4:35-40:
On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took [Jesus] with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
I have recently embarked on a journey to cross over to the other side and leave the crowd behind. For me, those words are a reminder that we are called- convicted even- to do so.
We are called to hop into our little fishing boats and head out on the sea. We do not have a weather app to check the forecast; nor do we have the ability to measure the wind speed. We float on faith.
When a great windstorm arises; while we are in the middle of the sea, trapped, without an oar; we have choices.
We can freak out. Scream for help. Jump off the boat and swim to land. Perhaps turn the boat around. Wake up the Messiah.
Or, we can follow the lead of Jesus, and my eldest daughter, and sleep through it. Jesus slept on a cushion at the stern of the boat. His fearful disciples opted to freak out and scream for help. They woke the Messiah.I can imagine Jesus waking to the frantic panic of his friends. Wondering why on earth they are so afraid when they have God right there on the boat with them. As if God would lead them to their deaths in that very boat!
Jesus does what he always did in that time- he provides them with another miracle- he extends his hand and he shushes the winds and the sea. Yet, he lectures the disciples, reminding them that they just aren’t “there” yet.
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
This isn’t the first storm I have faced. I know it won’t be the last. Weather is unpredictable like that- such is life. No one ever told us life was going to be fair-weathered and full of sunshine all the time. At least, I hope nobody has made that promise to you, because not even God offered such reassurance- not according to Scripture, anyway.
But how we face the storm says a lot about our faith, doesn’t it? It says a lot about how we feel when we consider “the other side” and “leaving the crowd behind”.
That means sailing off to the unknown. It means embracing uncertainty and remaining with a stillness inside.
It means sleeping on the cushion during the storm. What a frightfully intense consideration! Indeed, it truly is, for me anyway. When my weather app goes off to alert me to an impending storm, I prepare for the worst. A dangerous storm, accompanied by a tornado, ripped through our grove several years back, and ever since, I have grown anxious with each passing storm.
I go into panic prepper mode. I get water and blankets ready to bring into the basement. I take a head-count. I let the kids know that “we might have to run into the basement, so stay here in this room.” And then I frantically clean my house. I want to be prepared to fix the damage.
But maybe we aren’t supposed to always “fix” the damage, or try to prepare for the storm. Maybe we simply need to just face it. Like my husband- who leaves the safety of the house to “watch the weather” up close and in real life.
Cliff of Chaos
Jesus knew that a bigger storm was approaching. He didn’t move away from Gethsemane, he traveled toward it. He faced the ultimate storm. He didn’t try to fix it. He didn’t try to negotiate with Caiaphas, nor the Pharisees, nor anyone else who was willing to wrongly convict him. He faced it and them- with faith!
The Second Path of Quadratos is “Crossing Mark’s Stormy Sea”, and this crossing is said to be difficult.
Shaia cautions us:
Uncertainty, depression, and anxiety run rampant along this second path. We teeter on the cliff side of chaos. But we must jump off that cliff. Like Jesus’ followers, we are called to step out in faith and make a fearful journey through the conflict of opposites for the sake of our souls.
As he continues, Shaia points out that the disciples still sought a God who rescued them and removed obstacles. But Jesus displayed a God who would push his followers into the storms.
They seem to completely ignore their responsibilities, which were to endure and attempt to find inner calm through faith.
The disciples failed to practice what their teacher had taught them; inner peace. They searched externally for a fix-it rather than searching internally for the faith to face it.
Is that why uncertainty grips us so tightly? We forget that we have the power within to still the waters? As one friend remarked: “Face it- don’t fix it.” Face. The. Storm.
The Calm is IN you
I cannot fix what has been broken; trust. But that doesn’t mean that a little rocking the boat should toss me out into the dark waters. I still have the boat. I am still floating on faith. The center of the storm will provide me with a calm (followed by a little more storm). In the end, as the storm passes, the rainbow will appear. I am facing change that is ultimately delivering to me, a storm of suffering. Yet, unlike Jesus, I am not blameless nor innocent. However…
I will go to the other side.
I will leave the crowd behind.
I will find the calm.
My dear friend offered these words of encouragement to me, today; “Acceptance of what is brings calm… resistance brings chaos. The calm is IN you.”
So, for all of you who are enduring the same weather system…remember, the calm is IN you!
And of course I will be working diligently on creating new content! The show must go on. It ain’t over til it’s over.