Jesus Is in the Boat | June 19, 2021 Essay

Jun 16, 2021

As a violent squall breaks large waves over their boat, the disciples become alarmed. Jesus is asleep and they think they are about to drown. They anxiously awaken Jesus, and he says, “Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith?” (Mark 4:35-41)


As an avid sailor, I have experienced a few storms on the sea that have terrified me. Despite my terror, I had faith that all shall be well. Sailing on the HMS Tall Ship Rose, I was on board in an  early morning storm with “all hands on deck.” Yet, the one that stands out the most was June 2019 on our 26’ tugboat, Tug, in Long Island Sound.

Four of my friends from Bergen, Norway, were visiting us for the first time in over twenty years and my husband, Michael, an experienced sea captain planned a boat outing on Tug. Clear blue skies and sunshine beckoned as we set sail on Long Island Sound. We were sailing along with music playing and the warmth of the sunshine on our faces. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a squall came tearing through the Sound. All six of us huddled in the small wheelhouse with Michael at the helm. The boat heaved and rolled around in the waves. We had poor visibility and the violent rocking caused alarm. At that moment, I knew the terror the disciples faced in those moments in their boat with Jesus asleep in the stern.

The radar went offline, and the marine radio became our only lifeline, in a stormy sea with no visibility. I began to pray that Jesus was not asleep in our boat! Hildegunn and Vibeke were singing, Grethe was near to tears, Randi looked straight ahead not to get seasick and I held on with white knuckles, praying that Jesus would bring us safely to shore. Captain Mike was not flustered and began to sing, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” He made us laugh while he kept a steady hand on the helm.

Literally, we were being tossed about and turned around and I began to think about the disciples in their boat while Jesus was asleep. Usually, in these times of grave danger, I have a heart-to-heart talk with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I let them know I did not want to leave our son, Dylan an orphan. And, how could I ever be forgiven if my four friends from Norway drowned with us on our boat on their second day in the United States?

The fear I experienced that day was like no other. Caught in the grip of swells, the sea became a powerful force not to be reckoned with. Then, all of a sudden, I felt the loving arms of Jesus not only wrap around me but also around the boat. After what seemed like an eternity, the sea calmed, the rain stopped, and the sky turned blue again! We all heaved a sigh of relief and silently I thanked God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. And my friends thanked me for praying…

It was shocking to experience how quickly the weather turned around each time, and yet, it was a reminder of how turbulent life can be sometimes. There will be times when the sea is calm and there is clear sailing ahead. However, there will also be times when the seas are treacherous with waves, and the rain and wind show no mercy. The past fifteen months have been a journey that showed us how God is with us on the calm seas as well as the stormy seas.

Mark’s Gospel story can help us to navigate the storms that are a part of life’s journey. It has helped shape my inner compass and taught me that faith in Jesus is my True North and Jesus is my companion who is always with me. This story illustrates one of the most important lessons in the journey of life: the one True North Jesus, is always in the boat with us.

Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate for Ignatian Social Justice, Ignatian Young Adults, and Family Ministry