People go on cruises looking for different things to do, and there were certainly things on our cruise to do like martini tastings, tequila tastings, movies to see, food to eat, la la la. But I might have been the only person getting on the ship with a specific eye out to see if they would offer any kind of service on Sunday. Because I’m a freak like that.
Turns out they did, a non-denominational service at 9:00am on Sunday. Everyone passed on going with me except my Mother The Phone Harpy, Whom I Love Very Very Much, so off we toddle down to the lounge where normally they have jazz or piano or martinis. But this morning they have church.
We get there maybe two minutes before nine, and it’s reasonably well attended. They’re handing out Bibles (I’ve brought my purple one) and they’re playing a DVD with your typical praise songs on it, showing the lyrics so you can sing along over some generic inspirational scenes, like soaring mountaintops, oceans, rushing rivers, blooming roses, etc. Sometimes it shifts to a choir singing the song, in that cheesy infomercial way.
Currently, they’re singing Open The Eyes Of My Heart. I hate that song, I really do. I don’t like the melody, it’s annoyingly repetitive, and it’s like the McDonald’s of praise songs, you hear it every church you go into. Seriously, the songwriter must be making bank off that song. And the choir they’re showing singing that song is SO earnest, and SO heartfelt, man oh MAN are they FEELING THAT SONG. The eyes of their heart is opened, by golly by gosh.
But I remind myself that I’m not here to critique the service, or the speaker, a guy from Jamaica who pronounces “death” as “Det” and “asks” as “ax.” It’s not immediately clear what his regular position on the ship is, but he explains that he’s not an ordained preacher per se, but someone who feels the call upon his heart to talk about what God puts on his heart to talk about week after week.
I remind myself that I’m not here to snark at people, such as the squirmy five year old sitting in front of us who very loudly asks his Mom, “Is it over” five minutes into the service. The parents haven’t brought a book or anything to keep their child occupied, so the kid continues to squirm and be annoying all throughout the service.
I’m here to see if I can connect with God on a Disney cruise ship. Because that’s the strangest place one would ever find him, so of course I would, wouldn’t I?
The speaker reads the standard passage from Philippians, about how we must take hold of the race in front of us, and la la la. He then reads from Mark, Chapter 5 (I mishear him and turn to Matthew, where the chapter heading is Murder. Well, THIS is going to be an interesting sermon I think to myself, until Mom prompts me to turn to the right gospel book.)
He talks about the bleeding woman touching Jesus’ cloak, and how her faith made her well, which just so happens to be the exact same sermon I heard yesterday at church. That bleeding woman is making the rounds these days. And the speaker exhorts us that no matter what issues we’re facing, we can kneel before Jesus, and He will help us.
It’s a little Pie In The Sky for me. I kneel every damn day before Jesus. Seriously. I have a pillow on the floor for my knees and everything. I’m begging, I’m pleading, I’m at the proverbial end of my rope, the place where in every other conversion story, God comes down and does some pretty amazing shit. BOOM, someone sells a script. BOOM, someone gets an amazing job opportunity. BOOM someone meets a Starbucks barrista and they’re married six months later. As though they got just what they needed the first time they fell on their knees and begged Jesus to help them.
And I get it, to an extent. It’s a Disney cruise, people are on vacation, you’re not necessarily going to get a hard hitting sermon about the persistent widow and the judge (that one I’m still trying to wrap my brain around: nagging God will get you what you want?)
God did not show up in the piano bar with the speaker from Jamaica.
Later in the week, the Phone Harpy and myself went to Trunk Bay on St. John (which we did all by ourselves, as opposed to a ship excursion, meaning I navigated us both from cab to ferry to cab to beach. I am an awesome internet researcher, I am.)
The scenery was jawdropping, even with the storm clouds that peeped up from time to time (the few drops that fell actually took away the heat, which I found refreshing.) I had neglected to take a book, or a notebook, or an Ipod. So it was really just me and the blue ocean, the blue sky, the Phone Harpy and the three dollar cans of beer. And I thought, well, surely, God will show up NOW, won’t he? To me, un-encumbered by technology or distractions, or anything. It’s not like we don’t have stuff to discuss. Please? Pretty please? How about now please?
And yet, nothing. Not even when I deliberately empty my head and wade out into the ocean, and stand in the water, looking at the dazzling shades of blue and just simply think Please. Please talk to me.
God did not show up in the blue blue water at Trunk Bay on St. John.
Oh, I appreciated the surroundings enough. I appreciated the three-dollar beers enough. And I appreciated the circumstances that led me to be able to take a seven day cruise with the fam in a stateroom all to myself with a balcony enough.
I was just super hoping for a breakthrough of sorts. I need one desperately.
Some people would say I’m trying too hard. I should stop looking for God, and THEN he’ll show up. Like a guy.
I dunno. I give up at this point, really. Again. I’ve given up before, then returned to my Falling On My Knees ways. An endless cycle of I’m Walking Away, No I’m Back, I’m Back. I’m Walking Away, No I’m Back, I’m Back. Each time I walked away was a lack of response on God’s part. Each time I came back was also a lack of response on God’s part. Something has got to change here, but I don’t know what it is.
I once cried in Counselor Gladys’ office (once I cried? I cried a lot in that office), begging her to tell me, “God isn’t trying to make me an example is He? That somehow my purpose in life is to tell the world how He never talked to me and I still went through life as a somewhat decent Christian to prove that yes, you too can be a good person without ever hearing from Him?”
Counselor Gladys said no, of course not. But sometimes, like now, I wonder.
Ending on an upnote – here’s my dad on a bike. Pretty good picture of him, I think. No, he’s not wearing Clementine, that’s his own hat.