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The Lonely Boat

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NASB)

Recently there’s been a slide up on the screen during Creekside worship that shows a rowboat alone in a colorful sea. I don’t know the purpose of that slide, but it starts a whole thread of thinking in me.

In the early ’80s, when Kent and I moved from California to Washington, we left long-established friends, church and family behind. We had an 8-month-old son and a daughter on the way. I struggled with low self-esteem and anxiety. I often wondered how I’d missed out on the innate motherhood skills that others possessed.

Some senior ladies from Marine View Presbyterian Church took me under their wings and invited me to a meeting of Women’s Aglow, a charismatic fellowship. At one meeting, our speaker was a woman gifted in knowledge and prophecy. After her talk, she led us in prayer and then while our heads were bowed, she began to walk around the room, pausing by some of the women and praying over them, sharing words of encouragement or vision as God inspired her.

I remember wishing the speaker would stop and pray over me. I was sitting in front of a table, turned towards the podium, so my feet were stretched out in front of me. Although my eyes were closed, when she came by my table, I sensed she was passing me by. Until she snagged a toe on my outstretched foot! “Well,” she said, “since I tripped over you, I might as well pray for you.”

I wept openly while she laid her hands on my shoulder and prayed silently. At last she said, “All I see is a stormy sea and one tiny little boat, floating out there, all alone. You are that boat.” She prayed for me with kindly concern and moved on. I must confess I was hoping for more—some word of a bright future perhaps, but I couldn’t argue with the accuracy of the picture.

So, when I see that solitary boat up on the screen, I think: lonely. But then I think: “Why aren’t there more boats in that picture? There ought to be a whole flotilla of boats!”

My experience now (more than three decades later) is that I’m not a lonely boat. I’m part of a flotilla, the Creekside flotilla! I’m one sister among many and have become close through prayer teams, women’s Bible study, ministering together and writing together. I have a wonderful “sister circle” that I call on and that calls on me to share the burdens of womanly life. And I have Jesus, a wonderful husband, and a caring family.

Back when I was a lonely boat, I wasn’t actually as alone as I felt. I had Jesus and my wonderful husband then, too. I had the potential of a new church family. My loneliness came from inside me. I was so alienated from myself that I couldn’t receive love well from anyone. Jesus had to undo that and teach me to receive His love and learn how to love myself. Then He taught me a critical secret of love and friendship: You will always have friends if you’re willing to take the initiative in loving others, no matter what they think of you!

God took the initiative in loving us, so we always begin loving ourselves and those around us as receivers, before we give. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We don’t need to wait for others to show interest in us. We can love freely and liberally.

The business of love is the perfect job for a flotilla of well-loved boats. Where are the lonely boats in our acquaintance, or outside our acquaintance, that we can seek and find, just as Jesus, the Good Shepherd hunts for the lost and lonely sheep? Where are the alienated ones? Let’s get out on the high seas, or the low seas, in pairs or more so our love for each other is visible, and take the initiative in loving all the lonely boats we encounter, and bring them into our flotilla.

Jani can be reached by email here.

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