gentry13

raw faith

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2010 at 12:46 am

“be good to me Lord. your ocean is so big, and my boat is so small.” -prayer of a breton fisherman

this is either my seventh or eighth year serving with The Gathering throughout the halloween season. with     a few notable exceptions – the WS in 2006 and a silent retreat at l’arche in 2009 – i have had the privilege of showing up to serve almost every day during the season.

although i am not by most counts an extrovert, the season has never left me burnt. each year i’ve been able to focus myself by saying, it’s just eight days, or it’s just six evenings, or think about how many resources we’ve all invested in this good work. hell, the day we killed the dog i still showed up to do my shift.

this monday, i felt burnt. remembering uncle henri’s dictum that ‘burnout is a euphemism for spiritual death,’ i took an extra hour to walk through salem, pray through the pain and try to find the strength for the next weekend. after i picked up a cup of cafe valverde coffee and walked the cobblestones a bit, i felt a little better. whatever you say about salem – and you can say many, many things – there is a distinct spiritual vitality to the place. you can feel it in the air during halloween and that walk was a small reminder of why salem will always have a hook in me.

as the caffeine cleared my head, i decided to take a walk down to the wharf. i never get down there during a normal halloween weekend, so it seemed right for a stroll. as i passed bunghole liquors i noticed that there was an unfamiliar triple mast docked opposite the friendship. i feared that it might be twelve tribes borg, but a small sign said “pirate ship: free tours,” so i decided to give it a whirl.

as i approached the ship i noticed how rough-hewn it was. unlike the uss constitution or the friendship, tar seeped around the planks and the whole boat seemed shopworn. a sign attached to the gangplank christened the ship “raw faith.” the sign mentioned that the captain built the ship in honor of his daughter who lives with a disability. the stated purpose of the ship was to provide fully accessible sailing and the building of the vessel was ascribed to the “will of God.” walk the wharf only to be confronted by disability and christianity. what are the odds, i thought.

after walking the ship a bit and reading the touching stories of the captain’s dedication to his “darling” daughter and the multiple photographic and narrative descriptions of everything from the ships stove, navigation equipment and homemade wind turbine, i introduced myself to the captain. i told him i worked with people with disabilities and i’m also a pastor at a church in salem. for these reasons, i found his story inspiring and wished i had the resources to make a donation or perhaps purchase a much-needed hydraulic lift. since i noticed that the work was ascribed to the “will of God,” i also invited him to the gathering on sunday, since he seemed like the kind of guy who would be at home there.

when the captain seemed uncomfortable with the conversation and seemed to evade a question about his christian motivation, i shook his hand, took note of a few more displays and left. as i walked of the ship i was intrigued by the captain’s commitment to accessibility and was eager to tell my coworkers and the school-to-career kids about the ship’s mission.

as i made my way down the gravel wharf the captain started waving at me. no words, just waving. i returned to the ship and the captain said, “i want you to read the story of my daughter’s miraculous healing. she was brought back from the death.” after i read the story and commented favorably the captain took me to another story and said, since you are involved with disabilities, i’d like you to read this story and that one. i then read about how his daughter, who utilizes a wheelchair, went to a completely inaccessible school which required her biology class being held in a history classroom downstairs and the teacher publically calling her to account for the inconvenience. i read another story about how his daughter elizabeth was asked to appear at a conference that discussed marfan syndrome, the challenge she lives with every day. after hearing the medical researcher who spoke before her note confidently that science would soon solve the genetic conundrum that produced marfan’s and ensure that nobody would ever have to live like elizabeth again, he immediately left the room, exited the building and did not return.

after reading the stories i was inspired by this man’s love for his daughter, his triple masted symbolic act in honor of her and the simple, risky, raw faith that inspired him. by his own account, the captain is not a shipwright of any sort. but, noting that the “titanic was built by professionals and the arc was built by amateurs,” the captain has not let that, his tenuous finances or nay saying acquaintances to stand in his way.

after getting the captain to agree to letting me bring him communion on board the ship this sunday morning, i shook his hand and made my way off the ship. around the same time, i noticed that fog had started to blanket the harbor.

raw faith. risky faith. a small boat on so big an ocean.

i want faith like the captain’s. in the midst of the fog of exhaustion, the fear of my inadequacies and my frustration with my fragmented vocation, i was so startled, so inspired that i wept.

God continue to fill me with the risky, raw faith that i need to continue upon your mission. in the midst of my exhaustion, thank you for introducing me to a clear-eyed captain who helped remind me of the way.

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  1. thank you for sharing this. it encourages my soul. hugs.

  2. thanks for reading! i failed to mention that my friend matt the pirate offered to dress me like a pirate for communion on sunday morning. much to kellie’s disappointment, my commitment to incarnation only goes so far.

  3. oh MAN! that would have been awesome to dress like a pirate for church. my kids would have been jealous. i really do love this post.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kristi bennett, Jeff Gentry. Jeff Gentry said: Lord, please give me raw faith. http://bit.ly/bdpk3S […]

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