A couple months ago I was ready to quietly slip out of the Christian life. Honestly, I was just tired of it. Tired of the unanswered questions, the facades, the apathy, the people who preach a life they don’t live, and leaving different churches that seemingly could care less if I came. All I could see around me was inconsistency, hypocrisy, and lackluster motivation. I told a friend, “I’ll always believe, but I’m ready to quit everything else.”
I got home, pulled out my journal and heard these three words. “Don’t jump ship.” I wrote them down and stared at them. They stared right back at me.
Don’t jump ship.
In ancient times, a sailor wishing to leave without authorization would jump over the side when near to land (hopefully unnoticed) and swim for it, abandoning his post and deserting the ship.
Hopefully unnoticed. Abandoning my post. Deserting the ship that I saw to be full of people either fake, naively hopeful, self-seeking, or obligated to a religion. I didn’t see this ship (church) to be worth my time or energy anymore. It was going down in my perspective, and I was gonna do better far away from it. On my own. My own way.
But I had to ask myself, ‘Why do I want to jump ship?’ As I traced my thoughts to the root, what I found was that I don’t see the unconditional love I long to see in people.
So there I stood on the metaphorical ship, peering over the edge and looking out to a land that seemed much more free and unencumbered by frustrating people. I climbed the railing, waiting for the lull in the waves, looked around and saw no one. I bent my knees and shifted my weight, when those three words hit me, “Don’t jump ship.” I turned around only to see the very Captain of the ship with eyes full of sorrow. His voice wasn’t angry; it was a calm and simple plea. I turned my eyes from his; I couldn’t bear the kindness they held.
“Don’t jump,” he said again almost in a whisper. I began to feel the discomfort of conviction rise up in me. I had been trying to slip out unnoticed for a reason…
It was my own heart that lacked the unconditional love I long to see in others.
If I jump this ship because I think it’s headed in the wrong direction, don’t like the people, or think it’s too messed up… then how am I helping the problem? No, my jumping ship would only prove that the problem is right there within my own heart. Jumping ship would only affirm that I belong more on that “sinking ship” than anyone else.
So, if I desire to see change in the church then it has to start in my own heart and the hearts of each person in the church. But that change starts with one. One person deciding not to quit. One person pressing past the selfish and self-centered tendencies of human nature. It takes one person choosing to love with agape love instead of human love, the agape love that is a total self-giving to someone who isn’t interested in you. Unconditional. Unshaken. Unphased by rejection or ignoring.
What the church needs is people who choose to love through the frustration, the disappointments, the let downs, the fakeness, the apathy, the self-centeredness. What if it’s so prevalent in the church because so few are making this choice to live for others? What if this is a massive issue in the western churches because we aren’t even really living for Christ but for ourselves?
It takes one person to choose this. Fires start with one little flame.
I have been convicted of my rampant selfishness, and it didn’t come because someone scolded me or pointed fingers at me. It came because Someone kindly and lovingly asked me to not quit. It is kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
My judgements won’t change the church, nor will my leaving it behind. What changes a church? What changed the world? Love. Agape kind of love. Total self-giving to people who are not even interested in you. Whether it be they are more interested in someone else or themselves, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that will ever bring about change in the world around us is change in our self.
What’s God asking you to stay on board of? Your job? A dream? Your family? Your marriage? Your relationship? Your church? Hope? It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to live for ourselves. But what’s easy is rarely ever beneficial long-term.
Lord God, so patient and kind, we can’t do this. We can’t change ourselves. We can’t change our desire to jump ship on things that are so frustrating and seemingly hopeless. We need someone who is far beyond us in power, patience, and hope. Lord, will you please come and help us? Help us see things as You see them. Enable us to love without reservation and without selfishness. We cannot do this without you. Please, in your mercy and grace, make us more like you.
And so I climbed back over the railing, and was met with a smile full of compassion and a warm embrace. There’s a reason I’m on this ship. And there’s a reason your on yours too.
It won’t be easy. Change never is. It won’t come naturally. But God wants to do something in His Church. He wants to see her awake and living in the fullness He made her to live. But He needs people who are willing to die to themselves everyday. He needs one person to be willing to press on through the hard, the boring, the incessant. One person. May you and I be those people.
Don’t jump ship.