Cocoons and Nor’easters

Lee's Summit JournalNovember 15, 2013 

Social commentators sometimes refer to a concept known as cocooning. According to trend forecaster Faith Popcorn (yes, that’s her real name), “Cocooning is about staying home, creating a safe place around you.” Although the term is usually used to describe a preference to spend leisure time at home or the action of drawing within oneself out of preference, often people will withdraw -- cocoon, if you will -- in times of stress.

When going through rough times, most people who cocoon will begin to build walls to protect themselves in an attempt to gain some relief from the stresses that bombard them. Their worlds become smaller, they become isolated, and commonly might not even be aware of what would otherwise be obvious needs of those around them.

Then there are those certain rare individuals who, in times of stress, will rise above the self to see and even sacrifice for the needs of others.

Recently I was doing a deep dive into the Apostle Paul's journey to Rome. He was a prisoner aboard a ship bound from the east coast of the Mediterranean at precisely the wrong time of year to begin a sea voyage (Acts 27:9), and he knew it. Sadly, he had no choice in the matter. He was a prisoner of the Romans and had to pretty much do whatever the Romans commanded. That didn't stop him from speaking up on the matter and expressing his frettings to his captors (verse 10).

His fears were realized when a Nor'easter caught the ship, nearly destroying it, and tossing it for two full weeks in open seas with the crew having no control at all over it. I once was in rough seas for a day and a half at about the same time of year that Paul experienced his shipwreck. I was in no physical danger, but my stomach was certain that my life depended on it being emptied every few minutes, and I can assure you that I had absolutely no patience for my wife who had the good sense to swallow some dramamine before embarking. I wasn't the only oneturning different shades of green on the trip, but I really was not thinking about others' tribulations or the lack thereof. If I had the energy to pray at all, it was about me and only me.

It's instructive to look at what Paul said before they left port and compare it to what he tells the crew fourteen days into the storm. The contrast between Paul's warning in verse 10 and his encouragement in verses 21 -26 has a little nugget of wisdom that is easily missed.

Paul's fret in verse 10: Everything including lives will be lost.

Paul's encouragement in verses 21 - 26: The ship and everything on it will be 100 percent lost, but every single life will be safe.

I have read the passage about this journey to Rome many times, but a bit of nuanced wording never quite registered. Notice what Paul says in his short speech:

Notice the words “God has granted you all those who sail with you.” Remember, Paul's own life had been previously assured. He had an ironclad promise that he would get to Rome and bear witness to the Gospel there (Acts 23:11) . In verse 10 he warns that others on the ship might not have the good fortune of surviving the trip. My reading of the encouragement in verse 24 ("God has granted you ..."), leads me to believe that Paul, instead of cocooning in the midst of the storm, was spending a good deal of time asking God to spare his traveling companions too. This, in spite of the fact that he was their prisoner, and the demise of the Roman soldiers could have well been his ticket to freedom.

Take two lessons from this. First, pray for more than yourself and those who are in your circle. The people you encounter daily, whether believers or irreligious, all have a need for God' grace. They all bleed bright red when cut by the trials of life.

Second, think of those needs even when burdened by your own. I have known a few people in my life who, even though burdened themselves, have burning in their hearts the desire to relieve the burdens of others. I witnessed that recently, and when I did, I saw the workings of heart of God.


Lenny Cacchio is a resident of Lee’s Summit. He blogs at http://morningcompani

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