God in the Shipwreck

God in the Shipwreck
By David Ramos

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

I don’t necessarily enjoy crowded beaches. My idea of a Caribbean getaway is partly inspired by an attempt to escape the crowd hence I hunt for sparsely populated beaches. In Puerto Rico I have my spots and with any amount of luck I have the beach all to myself, a luxury indeed. I get some reading, writing, praying and meditation done. God and I have these long conversations where confession, confusion, and creativity converge and coagulate. I envision God chuckling with amusement at my puny little theological categories.
As I mentioned before, I love a good adventure, today it takes the form of plowing through a brush covered trail, jumping over a wall, climbing over coral reef, in order to walk on the white sands of my coveted solitary beach. About a mile away I see a boat that has apparently run aground. My curiosity takes the best of me and I’m off flip-flopping my way to get a closer look. When I get there, sure enough it is a shipwreck of an 8 person wooden boat hanging precariously off some reef. I want to climb in so I check its stability lest it topple over into the waves below. After some consideration I carefully jump over the bow and into the wreckage. I gingerly walk through its hallow hull in sober silence, shipwrecks remind me of graveyards so I walk in reverence. Inside it is littered with garbage, beer cans, shoes, soft drink bottles, and discarded undergarments.
What was the story of the last moments of this boat? Were they suddenly surprised by a storm like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee? Did they foolishly head into the sea ignoring foreboding meteorological signs or human warnings of impending danger? Was the crew just simply unskilled in dealing with the challenges of the sea? I will never know, but I grimace to imagine the terror of those aboard this ship in those last moments.
Life is full of challenge and crisis. Ever so often we are surprised by the fury of life’s storms, some don’t make it. Whether foiled by fury, folly, or fear, some run aground on the unforgiving reefs of life. For those who survive the mauling of the sea what does this mean? Does it mean that they are never to venture into the waters of life? Does the shipwreck become a testament disqualifying them from ever navigating a ship through treacherous waters? Must their identity now only be seen through the experience of the shipwreck? I don’t know the answers to these questions; everything is so unique, contextual and particular. I would like to believe that the survivors of life’s battles have wisdom and experience to share with those who have not ventured into the deep, that the sun can shine after the most brutal of storms and that there is life after the shipwreck, albeit perhaps an altered one. I would like to believe young sailors could still trust hardened salty captains who truly understand the capricious vagaries of the sea. Perhaps this is all so naïve of me.
Before I left I conducted one final sweep of the boat, one last analytical look. To my surprise, there in the hull, in this wooden grave, under water, was an incredible sign of hope; there was an open Bible. I brought my face closer to examine it; it was opened to Psalm 145. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it, the moment felt sacred. When I got back to my room I read Psalm 145 and found a wonderful message for anyone that has ever run aground, it says, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made…The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:8—9, 14).” God is not only the God of the sunny day; he continues to be God when the storms of life arise. God is not just there with you in the moments of victory but continues to be with you in moments of defeat. God is the God of the wind, land and sea. If he was with you on the land, he will be with you on the sea. God will not abandon you in the storm; he will be with you right there in the shipwreck! For any and all who have ever experienced the violence of the storm and/or the cruelty of the life’s reefs there is hope—God’s unmerited, immeasurable, tenacious, everlasting love.

“Cuatro cosas tiene el hombre
que no sirven en la mar:
ancla, gobernalle y remos,
y miedo de naufragar.”
Antonio Machado (1875—1939)

“A man has four things
that don’t work on the sea:
anchor, rudder and oars,
and the fear of drowning.”
Antonio Machado (1875—1939)

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