All Michele Cushatt ever wanted was a well-ordered life. Peaceful, predictable, and happy. A life she could control. She never expected a devastating divorce and single motherhood. Or a second marriage marred by the challenges of blended family. Or, at the age of thirty-nine, a cancer diagnosis followed by the addition of three little ones in crisis. The resulting chaos proved far more than she could contain. Although the details may be different, Michele’s story isn’t so different from yours. In her new book, Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life, Michele calls each of us to relinquish perfection and embrace what is. To lean in. Because sometimes life’s best stories are written right in the middle of the mess. She has been a friend for many years and is a very wise writer. It’s a grace to welcome Michele to the farm’s front porch today…
It happened the moment we settled into formation and started drifting with the current.
Without explanation, my heart raced like a gas pedal stuck to the floor.
With every screaming heartbeat, I felt more out of control. My wetsuit shrunk tight around my neck, the air in my throat thickened.
I can’t breathe! Dear God, I can’t breathe!
I was an experienced scuba-diver. I knew the routine, had done the same type of dive countless times. But today was different. Whether it was the racing heart or lack of air, I wasn’t thinking clearly.
God, help! I’m going to drown!
Water and regulator muffled my screams. I was dying, but no one knew. Scanning the sea, I searched for my husband. He’d know what to do.
But I couldn’t find him.
This is it. I’m going to die.
I remember the irony of that thought. After more than a year of fearing death by cancer, I would now succumb to an ocean.
It didn’t seem fair, to survive one horror only to die by another.
Then Alberto appeared. The dive master.
I don’t know what brought him to my side. He just showed up, out of nowhere, and hovered with me, eighty feet under the ocean, in my panic.
He took my hands in his. Held both tight.
Wouldn’t release me.
While Alberto held my eyes and my hands, my heart rate returned to normal. Once he was convinced I would not die on his watch, he released me and we continued our dive along the Santa Rosa wall.
Jesus’ disciples knew all about water, waves, and the terror of a possible drowning.
So when Jesus suggested an innocent, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake,” they jumped aboard the boat and set sail toward the far shore. (Luke 8:22) They’d done this a hundred times before.
But they didn’t expect the storm.
A “squall,” Luke says, fierce and consuming. One moment everything was fine, the next the boat was about to capsize. These were experienced fisherman, more qualified than most. But this wasn’t an ordinary storm.
Terror coursed through their veins. Peter. James. Matthew. John. Twelve friends and Jesus-followers in a boat about to go under.
Oh, God, help! “We’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:24)
Undisturbed, Jesus slept. No gasps or panic, no reaching or grabbing. Only peace.
His disregard of their terror seems heartless at best, cruel at worst.
How could Jesus remain unruffled, unsympathetic? I’m sure His divinity provided him an awareness of God that calmed frayed nerves.
But His humanness would’ve felt fear too. A racing heart, frantic breaths, tight chest.
Even so, faced with the same furious squall, Jesus remained at peace while His companions writhed in panic.
Why? What made the difference?
This was the question I needed answered, eighty feet under the ocean and every day above it.
I’ve lived long enough to know that unexpected squalls are part of the deal. Just because the sun is shining in the morning doesn’t mean you’ll see it in the afternoon. This life is unpredictable and, at times, terrifying.
But I’m tired of fear and bouncing up and down with every wave. I want to know the secret to sleeping in the boat.
“Where is your faith?”
These are Jesus’ only recorded words to a nearly drowned, still-trembling band of followers. I can’t help but wonder if, in that four-word question, we have the secret to a peace that rises above the waves.
Where is my faith?
In myself, more often than not. Which is why an unexpected squall—every last one of them over the span of two years—unraveled me. A boat anchored to itself is not anchored at all.
Shoring up your faith in the right place is far more important than simply claiming to have it. If I believe only in what I can see, manage, and control, sooner or later something will come along to rock my boat. When that happens, I’ll scream into the wind, “I’m going to drown!”
Instead, I must secure my faith where it cannot be unmoored. In the One who controls the waves and whose peace runs so deep we can find a way to sleep in the storm.
My faith belongs there, with Him. That’s the secret sauce between panic and peace.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
A part of me died that day, next to the Santa Rosa, deep in the Caribbean Ocean.
Faced with my frailty and exhausted from fighting wind and waves of a life I hadn’t expected, I had to die to the self-sufficiency and arrogance that had fooled me into thinking I could do all, be all, without consequence.
That I could anchor myself to my own boat and not pay the price.
Thank God. He looked me in the eye, and He refused to let me go.
A storyteller at heart, Michele Cushatt speaks nationwide with Women of Faith and Compassion International, and is cohost of the popular podcast This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt. She has written for Today’s Christian Woman and MOPS International and also blogs. You can read more of Michele’s story—and find a slice of yourself in it. Michele and her husband, Troy, live in Denver, Colorado, with their six children.
Grateful for the profound teaching in Michele’s new book, Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life. She shows us how in the midst of our fears, imperfections, and messes how to anchor ourselves and dig into Him. Highly recommend.