The Sea Takes The Rest

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”~~Jesus

A man is thinking about leaving his wife because she is difficult.  And he is right in that she is a very harsh woman.  But we pray together and I listen and he stays with her.  They stay married.

Another man tells me of a pornography addiction that has escalated into group sex with strangers and random sexual encounters with men.  I listen and pray with him for weeks and months give the Biblical wisdom about such things.  I meet with him as long as he willing.

A man has an affair with a co-worker and the wife  finds out and my wife and I spend hours, days, and weeks meeting with them.  I get calls and texts in the middle of the night for months from one or both of them because their hearts are on fire with pain and betrayal.  We pray, listen, give counsel from the Bible.  We declare to them both that we will walk with them all the way to a marriage of restoration.  They stay married.

A man comes to faith in Jesus, I baptize him and I spend hours and hours drinking coffee and teaching him the basics of the Christian life.  We pray together, we talk and we walk together for months and then years.  He grows and grows in his understanding of the faith.

Two young couples with their kids come to church and declare that they have found the church for which they have been looking for all their lives.  We pray together and enfold them into places of services within the Church.  Their children grow and learn about Jesus.

Another family joins the fellowship and begins to serve in the church.  I meet with the man for coffee hours after hours and yet he and his wife begin to drift apart and he begins to date a married woman so I ask him to take some time off of serving until he settles his marriage status.  I pray with him and show him the scriptures clear teaching about such things.

A man who is addicted to gambling comes to me and asks if I can help him.  I say I will walk with him until there is complete restoration of his soul.  I pray with him and show him what the Bible says about lust and intimacy.  We meet weekly for months.

A recovering substance abuser and I meet for coffee and great conversations about life and Jesus.

A woman and her daughter begin coming to our Church and breathe such a sigh of relief at finding a safe place from which they can recover from a toxic relationship.  They are enfolded deeper and deeper into the Church and begin to serve.  The younger woman is unable to have children with her husband who is hostile to the Church.  So, we pray and pray and pray for the couple to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby.  We pray for the husband to begin to attend Church.  He begins coming and is faithful to come even when his wife is too ill with morning sickness.  He begins to serve in the Church.  A healthy baby is born to this lovely family.

A middle-aged couple begins attending and start serving at the Church.  I visit with them in their home.  We have them into our home.  We pray with them.

A single mother and her daughter attend and serve.  I go to her place of employment with the horrible news that her father has suddenly died.  I carry her in my arms with another member to her car and drive her home.  My wife and I pray with her and love her; care for her.

A man comes to Church for years without his wife and daughter.  He serves faithfully in a vital place of ministry at the Church.

A man who has been in my home to share a meal tells his wife I am a fake.

And now I must stop typing for the tears in my eyes.

They are all gone.  They have left the Church.  Some attend other Churches; prettier and sexier Churches.  Others just don’t go to church anymore.  I know their names.

Below is an excerpt from Ken Gire’s latest book, Relentless Pursuit.  I urge you to read the book but especially this reflection.  It is has helped me a great deal.

The movie, “The Guardian,” gives an inside look at the Coast Guard’s highly successful but little-known program of Rescue Swimmers. The men and women of this elite team are called upon in a moment’s notice to drop from helicopters and plunge into storm-tossed seas in order to rescue those whose lives are in danger. It is a little publicized fact, but each year the Coast Guard saves around 5,000 people from drowning, sometimes more. During the devastating 2005 hurricane season, for example, they either rescued or evacuated over 33,000 people whose lives had been threatened by Hurricane Katrina.

The training program of the Rescue Swimmers is considered the toughest in all the military, with nearly half of those who enter it dropping out. The Rescue Swimmer program was established by Congress in 1984, after a cargo ship lost 31 crew members in a raging storm on the Eastern Seaboard. At the time, the navy had only one helicopter unit to assist in the rescue attempt.

The Guardian reveals the heart and soul of this rarely glimpsed team of professionals who are dedicated to the motto: “So Others May Live!”

The storyline goes something like this. After losing his crew in a fatal crash, the legendary rescue swimmer, Ben Randall, played by Kevin Costner, is forced to step down from rescue work to teach at an elite training program for Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. While there, he encounters Jake Fischer, played by Ashton Kutcher, a blue-chip swimmer while in high school, who is determined to break all of his instructor’s records.

And one by one, he does.

But the instructor is a legend among his peers, and stories of his quiet heroism haunt the self-confident upstart. Fascinated, Jake discovers there is a number that Ben keeps in his head, a number he assumes to represent the people he has saved over the course of his career. Several times he tries to pry it from the man, but it is not something Ben wants to talk about.

Meanwhile, Jake is equally an enigma to Ben, who doesn’t understand why the Olympic-caliber swimmer chose the Coast Guard over a college scholarship. The kid is an outsider, somewhat like himself, and Ben knows that if he is ever going to bring him inside, he has to know what put him there. So he digs a little to find out, and he learns the boy has a secret. And that secret is the source of his shame. Jake had been behind the wheel of a car in which several on his swim team were killed. Ben calls him into his office one night to talk about the incident.

“I’ve read the report, Jake. Your blood alcohol level was zip that night. I’m guessing there was a flip for designated driver, you lost.”

“I guess that just makes it all go away, huh?”

“No, it doesn’t make it all right, it just makes it an accident. At least that’s how it reads. You were 16 years old, Jake. I’m not your priest, but if I was, I think maybe you deserve a pass.”

Jake is angry now, his voice steadily rising. “You’re giving me a pass. You think you know everything, with your psychobabble bullshit. Why am I here? Why are you here, huh? You’re too old to be doing this, you washed up here. You don’t want to be teaching a bunch of kids in a pool, am I right? And he yells: “I don’t give an f what you read or who you talked to. You don’t know about me!” He pauses to collect himself: “I have me under control.”

“I can see that. The only difference between you and me is that I don’t wear the ones I lost on my arm. I know where you’re at, Jake. I’m there myself. I ask myself everyday why I was the one who survived.”

“And?”

“And if I can’t answer that for me, I’m certainly not going to try to answer that for you. Have a seat. I want you to start being a member of this team. The team you have now. You have a gift, Jake. You’re the best swimmer to come through this program, hands down, by far, and you’ve got a whole record board to prove it. But you know what I see when I look at it? I see someone fast enough who’s going to get there first. I see someone strong enough who’s going to last. I see someone who can save a life maybe no one else could. You really want to honor the initials on your arm? Then honor your gift. Save the ones you can, Jake. The rest, you’ve got to let go.”

That moment of understanding and compassion proves to be a turning point in Jake’s life. He becomes less focused on himself and more on his team members. Shortly after he graduates from the program, he visits his instructor, and they talk over beers.

“Hey, there was a question I wanted to ask you back at school, but I didn’t. When you can’t save ’em all, how do you choose who lives?”

“It’s probably different for everybody, Jake. It’s kind of simple for me, though. I just, I take the first one I come to, or the weakest one in the group, and then I swim as fast and as hard as I can for as long as I can. And the sea takes the rest.”

Jake then presses him.

“What’s your real number?”

“22.”

The number is much lower than Jake imagined. “22? That’s not bad. It’s not 200, but . . .”

“22 is the number of people I lost, Jake. The only number I kept track of.”

I am Ben.

Gotta go…the Good Shepherd is calling.  One of His sheep is in trouble and sheep don’t swim very well.

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9 thoughts on “The Sea Takes The Rest

  1. Thank you for this Joe. It so hits the nail on the head for me. I can go down the list too and often have wondered how I have failed those whom God has entrusted to me. I know they have all made their own decisions, but the pain is still there and the guilt wells up at times.
    I wish I could do more.
    It is so hard to watch the “Sea take the rest.”

  2. what a magnificent post! you take such a gentle, spiritual, Christ-like approach to the rejection and pain. i wish i could do that more. too often i lash out in anger or, more recently, it causes doubt to creep in. in my better moments, though, i feel pity for those who walk away from community and accountability because they are the ones who suffer, who really suffer from what they are missing.
    thanks joe—this was precious.

  3. Pingback: THE NOT-SO-REALLY IMPORTANT FIVE THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN BEFORE I STARTED PASTORING « Pastor Greenbean Blog

  4. Those who never try never know how hard it is to lose even one and how impossible it is to get over. We keep trying because of the ones we help save and we have long painful nights because of the ones we can’t. I can’t imagine the pain our loving Father experiences.

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