Ever feel like you’ve made such a mess of things that there is no hope of ever getting back on track? I sure have, both in my personal life and in the ministry God has entrusted to me.
Several years ago, I came to a place in my ministry where I was at my wits’ end. I had shed many tears and spent much time on my knees, seeking the Lord’s will. One night during this distressing time, I had a vivid dream. Now, dreams aren’t new to me. I dream most nights. But usually my dreams are bizarre, randomly piecing together people and places. That night, however, my dream was as clear as anything could be. I woke up knowing with certainty that God had spoken to me, His broken child.
In my dream, I was on a sailboat with family, friends, and acquaintances. I was driving the boat. (Notice I said I was driving the sailboat, not sailing it. The sail wasn’t even up.) With a firm grip on the wheel, I directed the sailboat. Occasionally I’d turn control over to other people—my kids, certain friends, and even strangers. Everyone, that is, but my husband. When Tim would reach for the wheel, I’d hold fast and refuse to let go.
“You can’t drive this boat,” I’d tell him. “You don’t have enough experience. You’ll crash it.” Tim, as Tim usually does, gently backed away and let me continue on my way…even though I was driving the sailboat around the same point over and over again.
After circling the waters many times, the sailboat crashed upon a rock hidden beneath the surface. I swam to shore with Tim and the other passengers, totally distraught over the fate of the ship. As I stood looking over the water to where the ship had once sailed, my father walked toward me. I was so ashamed; I could barely look him in the face. I was certain he was going to chastise me for sinking the ship. It was, after all, his ship. He had entrusted it to me, and as far as I could see, I had destroyed it.
To my surprise, however, my father smiled gently, patted me on the back, and said, “It’s okay, baby. It’s not lost.” Then he grabbed me by the hand and said, “Let’s go check it out.”
Together we swam to the mast of the ship that still slightly protruded above the waters. We took deep breaths and swam below the surface. First, we observed the ship from the outside. I could see a huge gaping hole in the front of the boat, caused by that unforeseen rock.
We surfaced for air, and he said, “Let’s take a look inside.” He grabbed my hand, and we swam through a window and found our way below the ship’s deck. The inside was in shambles. I was shocked at the internal condition of the boat. There were many broken boards that desperately needed repairing. The overall structure of the ship was obviously not sound.
“I’ve lost the ship, Daddy. It’s destroyed.” I cried. “I’m so sorry.”
“No, it’s not,” he calmly replied. “We just need to begin the restoration process by resurrecting it from the waters and docking it for a while so that we can replace the broken pieces.”
Knowing how much work that would require, I immediately jumped into a disintegrating hammock that hung from the side of the ship. Rocking back and forth, I cried out, “But it’s soooo comfortable just like it is!”
With a kind laugh, he shook his head no. Then, extending his hand toward mine, we swam to shore to begin the restoration process.
The first step of restoration was bringing the ship to dry land. Then, one by one, the boards were removed and replaced with new ones. It took time as we totally restored the boat from the inside out, but in the end, the boat had a solid, new foundation on which it could safely sail. The time finally came when the boat was returned to the waters. The dark, newly stained mahogany wood glistened in the sunlight as we launched it out into new territories. It was a stately boat that reflected rare beauty.
“This boat will be an inheritance for your children,” Daddy promised as it set out to sail around the world.
With my father’s words ringing in my mind, I woke up. I was unusually alert for the middle of the night. I felt calm and full of peace and hope. No longer did I feel grief and guilt, for I had been given a precious glimpse of the gentle and unconditional love of my heavenly Father. I once again had hope for my future and the future of the ministry.
For the next year, I docked both my life and ministry. One by one, God-led changes were made with the guidance of my husband and trusted, godly advisors. I’d be lying if I said these changes were easy, quick, or painless. God took me all the way back to ground zero and had me tear apart and rebuild every part of the internal structure of both In His Wakes and Kristi Overton Johnson Ministries. And then God went to work on the restoration of my personal life.
A year after this dream, our family found ourselves putting everything we owned up for sale and moving south to Central Florida. In this new place, we set sail once again. It’s been quite an adventure! God is sailing our ship into territories we never would have imagined.
I share this dream to encourage your heart. Perhaps right now you feel as though you’re sailing in circles, and you’re exhausted by the journey. Maybe you’ve hit an obstacle, and you’re frantically trying to stop the leak and stay afloat. Or maybe your ship has already sunk. Like me, you’re looking over the waters of your life, wondering what happened and how in the world you will ever get out of such a mess. Maybe too, you feel overwhelmed with grief or guilt.
Friend, don’t despair. With the Lord’s help, your ship can sail again in magnificent beauty, into territories you never dreamed. God is in the restoration business, and He is willing and able to make every part of you whole. All you have to do is give Him access. Come to Him and let the process begin.
Written by Kristi Overton Johnson
Photo by Erwan Hesry