Yep, the Lord called me to a ministry in Tahiti! Took me about 1/2 second to accept Chuck Swindoll’s gracious invitation to join him on a four-masted sailing ship that would cruise the islands. I would be performing Bible characters along the way.
One of them was Jonah, a new character for me. Old Jonah wasn’t called to paradise. He was called to go to Assyrian Nineveh. About as far from paradise as you’re going to get. And he did NOT want to go. In fact he headed the other way, only to be stopped by the Lord while on board a ship.
But who wouldn’t want to go to the South Pacific? When you think of Tahiti you may well conjure coral reefs ringing black sand beaches with shallow lagoons filled with iridescent rainbow fish and near-transparent eels with coal black button eyes. You may be able to feel the feathery touch of balmy breezes that carry just a whisper of coolness. You can almost smell the fragrance of a thousand tropical flowers. And that’s just the way it is. Tahiti is as close as you’re going to come to paradise.
On the island.
What you may not be aware of is that there’s a lot of what is ironically called the Pacific Ocean between the 118 islands that make up French Polynesia where we find Tahiti. There isn’t much that’s pacific, or peaceful, about some of those waters. The technical name for the dramatic movement of a ship caught in rough swells is called “sway.” So there I was, reciting the lines of God’s reluctant prophet, Jonah who found himself in the gut of an enormous fish—wondering if I might be in for the same fate. And I wasn’t even running from the Lord!
You should have seen me as I was performing Jonah—trying to maintain my balance and remember my lines as the ship was swaying back and forth—praying I wouldn’t tip over. I looked out the portholes on the starboard side and all I saw was gray sky. Five seconds later we tilted back and out the port side all I could see was water crashing against the thick glass. Thanks to a heavy stool they pushed out onto the stage for me I managed to avoid stumbling into the laps of the seasick seafarers to starboard or the green-gilled patrons to port!
The Lord graciously sustained me, though many passengers (including my sweetheart, Lauren) got seasick and stayed that way for more than 10 hours—all through the rest of the night. I should say “nights” because this was the first of two!
There was a good lesson here. There are going to be rough seas ahead.
I thought of another boat scene. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of him to the other side of the lake. Unlike Jonah, they were in the midst of obeying God when they encountered a life-threatening storm (Mark 8:33). Tumbling waves—even if they were going where He told them to go.
The same holds true for us today.
The good news is that He is with us. Always (Matthew 28:20). In the fish. On the boat. He is with us wherever we go.
Even between the islands of paradise, where the water can get rough.