The Restless Tossing of the North Sea

The North Sea at peace

Acts 17:25 "And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."

My son was just ten months old when we traveled via British Airways to Europe for Christmas. Our destination was not England, but Belgium, so arriving at the London airport, we took the train to Dover, and then the hovercraft (aka: hydrofoil) to reach our final destination: Oostende, Belgium. It was the first time I had taken the hovercraft, and I was sold! Instead of tossing for 4 hours on the car ferry, we skimmed over the top of the water, smooth and fast, making the crossing in just 1 hour. This was DEFINITELY the way to cross the North Sea!

Little did I know that this Christmas visit would be the last time I ever saw my father alive. Three years earlier he had undergone brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor; and though he had been stable for quite some time, his physical condition had begun to deteriorate-fast! It was obvious to all that the tumor had returned.

He was glad to see us, and he especially enjoyed watching his grandson crawl around and pull himself up on the furniture. His brain tumor must have been impinging on the speech centers of his brain, for he had significant difficulties trying to communicate with us. Despite this, it was obvious to all that my son was the highlight of our visit.

The day before we were scheduled to leave, a storm raged across the North Sea and the weather report called for similar conditions the following day. We were told that the hovercraft would not be running and that we had been rerouted aboard a car ferry. As the timing of our trip back to London hinged upon our being able to make the crossing in one hour, we quickly decided that the only course of action would be to make the crossing that same afternoon and take a hotel in Dover. I hesitated to mention to my dad that we would be leaving a day early, for I sensed how much it would hurt him; but inevitably the moment came where I had to say good-bye.

"I will never see you again!" he stated matter-of-factly.

Deep inside, I knew he was right, but I didn't want to let go. Not yet, not ever. And I held him for a long time in a tight embrace.

Although we had been forewarned that the sea was rough, it wasn't until we had departed the Oostende harbor that we fully understood the meaning of the word "rough"! Our boat danced up and down and from side-to-side, and many passengers had the opportunity to use the seasick bags provided for such occasions. My wife was one of them. She felt as if our boat were a football that the players were uncompassionately throwing around. My son, however, was too busy practicing his new acquired crawling skills to notice that the boat was tossing; and since my wife was seasick, I was the one who was blessed with the task of keeping up with him! This, along with my preoccupation with my dad, kept me far too busy to even think about being seasick!

We did, finally, arrive in Dover safely. As we got off the boat and planted our feet firmly back onto solid ground, it occurred to me that none of us had given any thought to whether or not the captain of the boat was capable of piloting a ship in rough waters or not. We had simply put our trust in him. After all, wasn't he the one being paid? Surely he had years of experience crossing the channel in rough waters!

But what would have happened if we had decided to NOT trust him? I could have approached him, for example, in the middle of our crossing and demanded that he hand his command over to me: "I don't trust you! You may be a captain, but I only trust in myself. I will guide the boat. Not you!"

His reply might have been: "But do you have any experience? Have you piloted a boat before?"

"Oh!" I could have answered. "I've had lots of experiences with storms. In fact we have quite a few thunder storms where we live, and piloting a boat can't be any harder than driving a car in the pouring rain!"

Where would it have led me beside the asylum if I successfully took over the helm of that boat? First of all, we would probably have never reached the coast of England, much less the Dover harbor. To be truthful, we probably would have had the privilege of experiencing first-hand what the passengers of the Titanic went through.

Another approach could have been: "I don't trust that captain. Let me out of that boat. Give me and my family one of the rescue boats and we will row to safety ourselves!"

The same results as mentioned above would have awaited us.

"But wait a minute," you ask. "Why WOULDN'T you trust an experienced sea captain?"

Yes, it does sound absurd. However, we are involved in an identical scenario every day of our lives! We daily face the storms of life, and instead of trusting the experienced Captain of our life (One who has eternity as experience) we turn to our own finite efforts to sort things out. How many restless and sleepless nights have we not endured because of needlessly trusting only in ourselves? Is it worth it? We are doing the same suicide techniques as boat passengers would do if they took their own fate in their own hands instead of trusting their captain to lead them through the storm!

Why not follow Jesus' advice Mat 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Is the sea of life rough to you? Who will you trust? The captain or ...

Rob Chaffart

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