Body, Mind & Spirit

In August, my wife and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Over the years, we’d talked about this milestone and what it might mean, and where we might travel. We’d saved a few dollars for the occasion. And so we decided to take a Caribbean cruise.

Now, cruises are not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but there are shipwrecks aplenty (Jonah, Paul’s wreck in Acts, etc.) And before out little excursion it seemed that there were an extraordinary number of sinking-boat movies on TV – such as The Poseidon Adventure, The Perfect Storm, and Titanic. I watched all of these movies with deep fascination and offered my wife numerous suggestions on how to hold her breath and how to swim underwater without a life vest. Naturally, she was not very reception to my insights.

Once we were out to sea, however, my outlook changed. I began seeing God’s creative hand everywhere – in the beauty of a Caribbean sunset, in turquoise water and wide white-sand beaches, in majestic mountains and lush tropical fruits. And far more importantly, I found God in the people I met.

Without exception, each time we sat down to dine with strangers, I noted how God was working in these people’s lives. Some were very vocal about their faith and the ministries in which they were engaged. Others were low-key. I met Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans and a fair number of folks who were of different faiths. But always, God was present.

Meeting God in so many others also helped me to look inside myself and find a deeper appreciation for my blessings. I knew that I had a great gift in my wife, but taking a cruise together further strengthened our love and devotion to each other. We missed our children, and I actually found myself toward the end of the cruise wanting to talk to my teenagers, to actually spend time with them.

Traveling so extensively on those small islands helped me to realize more deeply how abundantly blessed we are here in America and how blessed I am. Seeing how others are doing ministry under difficult circumstances only served to strengthen my resolve to make the best of my ministry in The United Methodist Church.

Now that my wife and I have returned from our twenty-fifth anniversary cruise, I can watch Titanic without breaking out in a cold sweat. I know how that cruise ended, and I liked our ending much better. I can read the book of Jonah and still order a fish sandwich when I eat at McDonalds. I don’t get sea sick when I kayak at Eagle Creek Park.

Of course, I didn’t have to go to sea to learn all of these things. That’s what’s so amazing about the Gospel. Sometimes all we have to do is open our eyes and our hearts.

Todd Outcalt serves as senior pastor of Calvary UMC in Brownsburg. His latest books are Your Beautiful Wedding on Any Budget (Sourcebooks), School’s Out (Abingdon) and the upcoming $5 Youth Ministry (Group).