Why Do We Go?

Many years ago, Ian, a ruby-cheeked and curly-haired young man, joined the voyage of a five-masted schooner. The great sailing vessel carried over 3,000 tons of food, clothing, farm implements, books, liquor, and lumber.

         After one week at sea, at the end of a hard day, some crew members broke into the cargo of fine liquors and opened a case of scotch. After all, they were risking their lives to transport the stuff. Consuming one out of a hundred cases would surely be a reasonable gratuity for such perilous work. Soon they opened a dozen more cases.

         As the trip wore on, the crew’s clothes grew foul and began to fall apart. That’s when someone discovered vast stores of new clothes. The men discussed the need; their slurred voices reasoned they had destroyed their clothes in the grueling, cold, wet work. So, of course, it was only right to take a small portion of the trousers, shirts, jackets, raincoats, and headgear. No one would expect them to do the heavy work in tattered and inadequate clothing.

         Naturally, being sailors, the crew began grumbling about the food the first day. The meals were not only boring, they complained, but stale and maybe dangerous. This was serious; they wouldn’t live long on that slop. In desperation, the men broke through a partition to discover cases of the best cheeses, steaks, breads, jams, caviar, cakes, and other delicacies. One old sailor said it was better than the Queen Mary.

The Hangover

As the voyage rolled on, the accident rate increased. The sailors stumbled through the difficult and dangerous work. Some looked like they had suffered strokes. Food and drink stained their shirts. Sailors fell asleep on the rolling deck. One night, the pitching ship hurled two men into their ocean graves.

The cargo hold of food became a horror; its repulsive stench permeated every level of the ship. Rotten food and human bile turned the decks treacherous. The rats came. The sickbay remained full.

         Five weeks after the journey began, green hills and a great harbor came into view. When Ian climbed the mast and pulled binoculars to his eyes, he saw trucks and horse-drawn wagons; dozens of all sizes filling the roads leading to the dock.

Peering through his binoculars, the young man suddenly understoodthe enormous and elegant chain of business. Many workers harvested or manufactured the cargo, others loaded it into ships, sailors wrestled it through the sea, dock workers received it, and stores and sales teams sold it throughout the new land.

It never belonged to the crew. They were all thieves.

A Larger Dream

When we view the great sweep of life as personal territory, we enter a very confined and suffocating existence.

         But what if, like the crew of the schooner, “my” work really belongs to that great lineage of people I’ve never seen and will never know? What if I’m a steward of abundant provisions—received from and intended for places and people far beyond my own?

         Will I deliver it or devour it?

         Do you think it’s possible that the less you see your own interests, the more you see larger possibilities? Could losing sight of yourself be the first step into a large dream? Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Whosoever saves his life shall lose it: and whosoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.”

Yes, I know the cargo ship’s crew risked their lives, and some died on the voyage. But, if they desired any portion of the great payload they worked so hard to deliver, they had to pay retail like anyone else. No discounts. No refunds. And those who sold it had no interest in their stories of the sea.

         Life’s largest possibilities call us to live within a radical truth: We are not owners; we are trustees and managers of every arena of the life entrusted to us. Making life even more radical is the fact that we are delivering the great treasure to people we don’t know and may not like.

         Does it matter that their Creator likes them? Is that enough reason to go to sea? Those may be life’s biggest questions.  

7 thoughts on “Why Do We Go?”

  1. Really good illustration Ed. Thanks. When I was growing up I read a lot of stories about sailing vessels like that cargo schooner.

  2. Oh this is such a great allegory for selfish and pampered believers who feel they deserve more. I have found myself believing that falsehood many times. I loved this story and how you textured your applications so seamlessly into the story. I loved the reading of it.

    Some of my takeaways:
    “Do you think it’s possible that the less you see your own interests, the more you see larger possibilities? Could losing sight of yourself be the first step into a large dream?”

    We have “to pay retail like anyone else. No discounts.”

    As stewards of God’s entrustments, “we are delivering the great treasure to people we don’t know and may not like.”

    Thank you for this, Ed!

  3. Wow what message here that would serve America well. We are witnessing this action across our nation now. So many taking what is not theirs. We have a job to do and a heritage to protect, and we are not entitled to any of the harvest that we have not sown!. Again such a great article. Thank you.

  4. In our work with broken families at The Ark Family Preservation Center, we are called to give the best of provisions we have to those who, in the world’s eyes, deserve it the least. Some of these patrons are hard to love and impossible to like. But our Creator loves them. From the eagle’s nest of our schooner (the Ark), we are able to get God’s perspective of how to give generously and even gladly to His children.

    Thank you, Ed, for a piece of your journalism that hit me squarely in the eye. We have much more to learn so we cheerfully give cups of cold water to the thirsty surrounding us, as unto our Lord.

  5. Ed, this is a great piece. At one time or another I have surely known (or been?!!) an entitled deck hand pilfering and wasting the rich abundance of assigned cargo with delusions of just desserts and exemption from retail duties. As I read and pondered this significance I realized I go because the Captain personally called me unto Himself.

    Early on, He made clear the costs of pilfering the cargo and right ways to treat other crew and passengers. He made it clear that like Jesus we are here to serve interests beyond ourselves no matter our personal affinities or aversions of His clientele and enlistees. It took some time to get the picture that this is not my personal vacation cruse. It is His multinational enterprise beyond my wildest dreams but He doesn’t seem to have been in a hurry for me to see that. (Note – if any of this reads sort of “flowery”, I’ve been reading William F. Buckley lately, another of your recommendations.)

    As a seaman on the SS Kingdom of God with intergalactic citizenship. I’ve been on a joyful cruise since accepting the Captain’s initial invitation to sail. The uncounted opportunities to know Him better keep piling up. Beyond moments of manning the deck in the rain and raiding the liquor locker, I rejoice in clear sailing and storm, stretching my neck to search the horizon. I know in time I will arrive safely in the ultimate port to receive the sailor’s reward of “welcome home son”. My Captain is transcendent that way.

  6. Such good words which reveals the liberality and largeness of life we walk through. My hope is that I do not become like the sailors who think that their part in life is the only perspective to be rooted in.

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