“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:36-41)
Every Sunday evening at 7 o’clock, our community gathers together in our living room to meet and pray. After each person shares an emotional check-in and any community announcements, two community members lead us in prayer. The prayers vary in kind and length, but they always include time to reflect on the lives we are building―both at home and at school. Our most recent community prayer began with a look at “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt van Rijn. We each took a moment to scan the painting, noticing the light, the faces, and the movement within it.
The painting depicts the story of Jesus and his disciples caught in a storm out at sea. You can see the disciples’ varied reactions to these tumultuous waters; some man the sails, hoping to fight the storm. Others go to wake Jesus, who had been asleep in the boat, perhaps not knowing what he can do, but knowing that they would feel safer if he was awake.
After taking a few moments to examine the painting, my community member posed two reflection questions: 1) When so far this year have we felt like one of the disciples in this boat, disoriented and scared? And 2) When have we had the chance to be like Christ in the boat, guiding and comforting our students through their own turbulent waters?
The reality of life as a first- or second-year teacher is that it can feel incredibly turbulent. Our commitments to our students, schools, coworkers, and community members pull us in different directions, leaving us at times to feel stretched thin and worn out. These moments of prayer remind us to center ourselves and look to Christ, who is always in the boat with us. If I’m honest with myself, I sometimes feel like Jesus is sleeping in my boat, too, and I’m left to man the sails by my own effort. In our weekly time for prayer and reflection, my community members challenge me to go to Jesus and rely on his presence, rather than my own strength, to guide me through the storm.
Another beautiful reality of our lives as teachers is that we get to accompany our students in their own storms, whatever those look like. It is humbling to know that we get to be like Christ here, guiding, giving direction, and doing what we can to bring a sense of calm within the chaos.
I think my favorite part of this painting is that it does not depict the waters after Jesus calms the storm, but rather, shows the beauty and power of the storm itself. It reminds me that there is always goodness to be found, even when the waters around us feel chaotic. As a community, we are called to accompany one another in this storm, and to encourage each other to call on Jesus for assistance.