You Are Not a Life Boat
by Christopher Witmer
This article first appeared in the September/October 2014 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
Imagine you are stranded in the middle of the Atlantic. Your ship has sunk and now you are in a lifeboat with six other people, about to sink if you don’t get rid of some weight. Someone has to be thrown over.
You look at the muscular sailor rowing beside you. He can’t be less than twenty-five with a decade of sea-experience behind his back: he is certainly not the one getting thrown over. In the bow sits a had-been vacationing, stay-at-home mom with three young children at Grandpa’s, clueless that they are now fatherless. A garbage man also escaped along with a millionaire and a hipster still holding his coffee cup. Who do you throw over? The garbage man or the hipster? The stay-at-home mom or the millionaire—or you? Who has more value?
In his book, Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller presents a similar scenario. He compares the basic struggles of humanity with the people in the lifeboat. He says that we are born desperate to prove to each other why we should not be thrown overboard. This explains our desire to be the most athletic or admired, to wear the trendiest clothes, or to write the most profound article the Daughters of Promise has ever published. Feeling a need to prove to those around us that we are better and more valuable than average, we will do anything to persuade the others in the lifeboat that we deserve to live.
Maybe this is why bullies pick on the weak: it is easy to prove yourself strong when compared to a weakling. “I’m stronger: throw him over.” Maybe it is why we try so desperately to associate ourselves with popular people. “I am important: throw someone else over.” Maybe it’s why we pursue fashion, point out fat people, or drink coffee. “I’m cool, I look good, I’m hip: throw someone else over.” Maybe this is why we make ministry a competition and instead of caring about individuals and their relationships with God we treat people like trophies. “I’m more godly, I’m more blessed, I have faith, I’m successful: throw her over instead of me. I have more value.” We look around, feeling the water around our ankles, sensing the pressure to perform or be disregarded as not fit-to-live. We feel this way because we think we live on a lifeboat.
But we don’t.
Jesus possessed an incredible sense of identity. He knew He was the Son of God and that nobody was going to throw Him out of any lifeboat. The Father God Himself had declared His pleasure in Jesus and called Jesus His “beloved Son.” The Son of God had nothing to fear.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, walked around in fancy clothes, saying fancy prayers, despising anyone who did not measure up to their standards of excellence and perfection. As if to say: “We are better; you are worse: you get thrown overboard.” But Jesus was not fazed by them because He saw right through their façade. He saw the wickedness and pride in their hearts and He did not capitulate, which stirred up their fierce hatred for Him. Jesus knew exactly Who He was and therefore did not have to play the lifeboat game.
And so should we know who we are. Jesus came to reveal to us our true identity, to adopt us back, like the youngest prodigal son. If I could, as a man, do anything for my sisters (that’s you), it would be to erase the lies that seem to define women. The lies that scream you need to prove yourself worthy of anyone’s approval, attention, or love, especially a man’s. I would silence the voice whispering to your heart lies about needing to look or cook better or have more refined fashion tastes. I would—and do—apologize for the lies often told or insinuated by us men. Lies about whether or not you are beautiful—as if it was even a question. I would squelch the lie that your role as a woman is, for whatever reason, less important or valuable than a man’s role.
I would tell you it doesn’t matter, none of it. “It” referring to your looks, your makeup, your shades, your trendy clothes. “It” referring to your spiced lattes or Pinterest “flops.” None of that defines you. How you look, how you act, what you wear, who you marry—or even if you marry—makes you neither more nor less of a person. It neither increases nor decreases your value because your value is immeasurable! It does not matter what “she” across the street or across the pew is doing or succeeding at or what friends she has. “She” has nothing on you. Really, it does not even matter what positive truth I give you. What is more important is what God thinks about you.
God adores you: He sings over you because He’s so delighted in who you are (Zachariah 3:17). You are a daughter of God the Father, and that is all that matters (Galatians 3:26). You don’t have to compete.
You don’t have to have a ministry or a husband, you don’t even have to drink coffee (surprisingly)—you are already accepted and loved. The Son finds you not just beautiful, but ravishing. Temporal desires are certainly not bad; in fact, many of them are very good and worthy of pursuit, but whether or not they become reality makes no difference in who you are. You are not defined by them. It may be hard to believe, but it is true.
When you die, Jesus won’t be concerned about what material possessions or social standing you had, or if you had a husband, kids or ministry. In fact, I believe that when we come physically before Jesus, He will ask “Did you believe that I love you?”* because anything that we do on earth with any eternal value will spring from a deep settled conviction that “Jesus loves me.”
Jesus told Nicodemus that He would rather die than to live without you (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Furthermore, He says that any love we give Him is a response to His incredible love for us (1 John 4:18-19).
So, do you believe? It starts simple, like a small mustard seed, Jesus said, that grows little by little as it is watered, until it is a strong, flourishing tree who knows nothing about lifeboats. Maybe the question is better asked:
“Will you believe?”
Christopher Witmer is passionate about writing, missions, people, cities, and relationships. He is especially passionate for learning more about being a lover of Christ and of people and prays every day for faith to believe the simple words: “Jesus love me.” He lives in Los Angeles with his Dad and two sisters.