"As I saw the ship staggering and plunging among these roaring caverns, it seemed miraculous that she regained her balance, or preserved her buoyancy. Her yards would dip into the water; her bow was almost buried beneath the waves. Sometimes an impending surge appeared ready to overwhelm her, and nothing but a dexterous movement of the helm preserved her from the shock." Washington Irving, The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon.
I’ve tried for the last week or so to write this blog. For some reason, I get going on it and then look at what I’ve written and hit the delete button. I’ve done that often lately as I’ve tried to write for the blog…..if you are reading this and notice such things, my numbers have truly dropped off. It’s funny, with being unemployed for the last year, as of Nov 13th, you would think that I’d have all the time in the world to write and some people would say that’s all I’ve probably done instead of being hard-core job searching and willing to take anything to be employed again. As with salvation, the proof is in the fruit and there has been no fruit from the writing tree in months.
It has been quite a year.
I thought I had found a ministry partner and found out that ‘love’ is fleeting unless it is really true. I have watched two communities of believers react in different ways to the situation my family has struggled through in the last year since the call on the phone telling me that my job was no longer there. I have had friends struggle with the situation; not wanting to ‘enable’ me to be lazy but also not wanting to be cruel in their accountability of supporting me in the job search. I have experienced sorrow and joy, peace and discontentment and disillusionment with insight. And, it has (as in all journeys) brought me here. And, as in all things human and fragile, here is not where or what I thought I would be.
I love the sea. I think that it was part of my genetic makeup that went wildly out of control. My grandfather was a Navy vet of WWII. He had entered the service as an enlisted man and they commissioned him as soon as they discovered he was a Detroit Diesel Engineer. They put him in charge of a PT training squadron out of Florida. My grandmother said she would look out to the sea and see the squadron on maneuvers, knowing as soon as they turned into the canal that she could start dinner because he’d be home by the time she was finished with it. My father, a storekeeper, was in during the Korean war and served as a driver for the Director of Navy Intelligence in Japan. I served in the Navy myself as a Damage Controlman.
It has been a difficult year.
My image of myself; that core-ness of who I am took a devastating blow that November day last year. A shot amidships right at the magazine storage. And, despite my best attempts in the days that followed I slowly sank lower into the waves and took on water. No longer was I heading toward a destination but I was in a fight for my very survival. Far from land, far from assistance and well into the locker of Davey Jones……I truly gave up for a while. Oh, I floated up the dream of Seminary and finding the wealth of support that would get me and my family through the three years or four (max) that it would take to get my Masters of Divinity degree that would ‘legitimize’ my calling in the faces of those in charge of the human side of church. Or going back to school to get that degree that was the reason for my demise.
But in a world where my future was traded in the past for the moment of survival that I gained, such were only mere momentary measures that failed almost as soon as they were implemented. And, as each attempt was stripped away, the hardened ‘image’ of a visceral man who has survived for so long….even despite himself, was shaken and wiped away layer by layer. Soon, the young boy who had set sail so long ago in the passage of time was the only thing left.
Standing waist deep on the deck of the ship in the sea.
Love….a endeavor I was ill-equipped to undertake and a temptation that I thought was conquered that merely was forgotten in the dailiness of being upon the sea of this world. Community, that strange island passed on the port bow full of the rumors and tales of a strange people so outrageous that it had to be impossible. Future?, a mere moment-to-moment thing devoid of any grace or grandeur. Merely a teasing distraction to the water filling the cracks and crevasses of the hull, a temporary filling of the sails fallen to the deck and a fractional movement forward.
A boy standing on the water-filled deck facing the impossibility of overcoming the storm, alone, knowing that all that he thought was real was simply an illusion of his sinful and depraved mind.
Often, when we are faced with such complete and utter destruction, we beg whatever we have to and promise whatever we have to and grab whatever hand we see presented to get ourselves out of the situation at least for a moment so that we can breathe and ponder its immensity so that we can face what we have to do to never come to that place again. I know, because I have been here before and I have done the same thing.
Add to that the picture of the rest of the crew, incapable of doing the work themselves and relying on you to see them through……picking up on your fear and your isolation that causes them to pull away from you and cling to those who can give them peace in the troubling winds…… that moment comes when the house of cards that is you falls apart and scatters to the floor, trampled on in the urgency of the situation.
A boy standing on the water-filled deck up to his neck.
Not exactly the future I had envisioned staring out of the second story attic of the world of my childhood as the sounds of Johnny Horton extolling the tale of the Bismarck. Not exactly the man that I envisioned myself becoming in the glories and battles of the open sea.
There was no sudden ‘salvation’ on the horizon this year, no sudden insight that enabled me to bring about victory from defeat or a miracle born of ingenuity that would make you shake your head in the amazing simplicity of it. No, merely a little boy frightened beyond his days slapping at the waves that threat to overwhelm him and a deep-soul burden cry of disillusionment and fear shouted to the unseeing sky.
And in that moment of my despair, where I have realized that I cannot do what needs to be done by myself and the pride that once made my backbone so ramrod straight was imaginary and useless; then…….
We moved out of my family’s house that was stressing everyone and moved into a place of our own…….friends providing the funds to buy and renovate it.
We are settling into school and healing from the wounds we have caused each other in the dark of the storm………
And my faith, once that jewel that adorned my crown, has been discarded in the light of its uselessness……………………..
Even in the reality of being guided by the hand on the helm of my life, that God/Man that commands the seas to calm or rage, hasn’t shaken me as much as losing my faith.
It brings me back to the moment in time when I was strapped into a harness with a thin, two inch piece of rope wrapped around the metal mast of the ship and told to climb the 40 foot thin pole that was jokingly called a main mast to replace the top running light on the port side arm. With the sea tossing it in a two to three inch arc through the air. It took me a half an hour to do what the deck hands, the Bosun Mates, would’ve done in ten minutes.
Fear caused my limbs to freeze, the nearness of danger my heart to race and the impossible heights that I was called to go making me wish to be someplace else……..
That moment, each and every step I took or movement I made, where I overcame the fear, danger and uncomfortableness to reach the next rung, the next jump of the rope or to reach over dependent only upon the support I had judged inadequate……..that moment I am reliving today.
That moment in-between the flight of dreams and the reality of gravity……and the realization that you’ve reached it.
God is passing by and my eyes fear to look up, even if it is only to see His back…………
God has given me a bucket and the sheer foolishness of bailing the entirety of the ocean with a five quart bucket makes me want to cry……….
But I bail because I have nothing left but the reality of who God is and the promise that He has made to me and you………even in the neck-deep water that has washed over our gunwales………..
Whether the ship slips beneath the cold waves and disappears from the air of this world……..or some miraculous salvation comes over the horizon……..
Because from the helm comes the chant of promise, the declaration of love and the eternal future……..
“I know the plans I have for you…..plans to prosper you and not to harm you………”
“Plans to give you a future and a hope….”
So, even as I bail the depth of my depravity and sinful temptations that have sunk me so low into the world……..
Even as I struggle to fellowship with the community of God and have those who are so inclined to walk alongside the truth in my life…..
My belief in God grows stronger even as my faith weakens…..and my heart sings……
"Make music to praise the LORD, you faithful people who belong to him. Remember his holiness by giving thanks. His anger lasts only a moment. His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning." Psalm 30:4-5 GW