Monday, October 5, 2009
Dr. William Shedd, an eighteenth century minister, and one of the greatest theologians of his era wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
From this I get the picture of a massive man-o-war idling at a dock, it’s sails furled, it’s decks barren, it’s banners listing in a sultry breeze, it‘s hull riding high from empty magazines.
It’s a peaceful picture. One instilled with a serenity that belies the vessel’s inherent power. It hides the sense of prosperity and impending purpose. It shrouds the mystery and challenge of what tomorrow’s task may hold for it under a blanket of calm.
With that though, is a sense of false purpose. For we know that though the ship be at berth, gently bumping against a dock, with little to worry of save a slow trickle of seawater through idle planks, it is not at the mission it was born to accomplish.
See that same ship riding low in the water with a hold full of shell, a full compliment of hands on deck, the open mouth of the harbor beckoning, canon ports thrown open to the enemy, it's hull knifing towards the heavy swell of the high seas, a brisk zephyr bulging it’s sails, pennants snapping in the wind, spray from a frothing sea drenching it’s decks, it‘s prow pressing forward with purpose, and we can almost taste the brine of adventure on our lips! For this is what she was built for!
Some say they are waiting for their ship to come in,…I’m waiting for mine to go out. I’ve spent too long bumping against the docks of opportunity. Too long with nothing to challenge the ear except the slow drip of a safe harbor leaking through my unused hull. Too long straining against the ropes of domesticity of the era I was born in. Too long waiting for a worthy wind to throw the sails of my skills against. Too long the warrior vessel without a battle to engage.
Last night I sat on my front porch, in the welcome cool of a fall Carolina evening, talking to my brother. The challenges of life have beaten him up pretty good lately. Like a lot of us, a faltering, and questionable economy has plagued him with more month at the end of the money than is comfortable. His son is knee deep in domestic heartache, and the wolves are snapping viciously at the door.
He’s a believer. He knows of, and believes in, the existence of a sovereign God. He knows he’s been saved, and washed in the blood. He knows there is an eternal reward awaiting us on the other side. He just isn’t sure why it has to be so damn tough on this side. So do I sometimes. Deep down we both know God has His Plan, and His Purpose, and we don’t necessarily have to be a party to the specifics. However, it still hurts sometimes to think we might not be as effective in caring and providing for our loved ones as we could be if the winds of fortune would blow our way a bit more often….well, at all really.
Having discussed that very subject to it’s obvious conclusion…He is God, and we are not, we moved on to another often queried subject, vis, what’s with all the "life’s experiences" tossed our way that makes us so unlike the common picture of today’s “metro-man”?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite certain I could be beaten. Up, I mean. There are most likely hordes of men out there, older and younger, who could take me in a fair fight. You’re not gonna beat me down though. I have no fear that, in consideration of shear determination, my better exists. I could certainly be incapacitated, but you better make it permanent, cause I’ll always come back. My brother is the same way.
He, and I, were born in the desert, raised in cold wet mountains, have eagerly spent a lifetime facing life’s most physical stresses head on, and come out on top. We’ve never even considered sitting on the fence, have always taken the hard road (even when it made more sense not to), and never sought out the easy way (even when it made more sense to).
We can ride anything, shoot anything, drive anything, eat anything, and fight anything. We’ve spent a lifetime proving it to ourselves, and others. We haven’t always been entirely successful at some things we’ve taken on, to be sure. But I can honestly say, that’s only because it either bored us to tears, or proved itself unworthy of continued effort. We’ve learned to pick our battles, and fight them hard. We’ve learned to walk away, and live to fight a more worthy battle at another time. We’ve learned to be humble, and hard all in the same frame. We love our wives without question, would fight to the death for their honor, yet would not hesitate for a heartbeat to duck tape them to a post if they got in between us. We’d strap on a gun, and face a battalion for the safety and honor of our kids, yet again, not hesitate to lay that same strap on their fannies if they disrespected the code we’ve lived by.
I’ve consoled myself in the knowledge that we, together with our wives, have raised five healthy kids. We have a roof over our heads, wheels on the road, chow in the fridge, lights when we flick a switch, and people who love us. We’re working on being better people to those around us, and trying to please God. We have bunches to be thankful for, more than most in this country, let alone the rest of the world. We live in the best of times, and in the best of places. And yet, for all of this, we feel unfulfilled.
Like that ship, dormant in port.
Oh, their might be some minor challenges that serve to piss us off from time to time. Like seagulls crapping on the deck then flying away, or other boats bumping and scuffing our exteriors, rain squalls dampening powder kegs, or drunken hands lost in port, and wimpy commanders afraid to fight.
Yet the ship itself, tested by trial, built for strength, armed for war, is ready and willing. Praying that it’s defining moment arrives before the ravages of age confine it to the bone heap of yesterdays untested hero’s. Committed through a lifetime of training, and surviving, yet never tried under true fire at sea. Sitting safe in harbor for lack of the Battles’ cry.
God, grant us a worthy cause!