The Captain of a small wooden boat
by Michael Wilmot
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"This is pretty stupid you know. You don't even know where this road goes. What if you blow a tire and it is late in the day. " "Yeah a cell phone is really going to help you out here and no one knows where you are right now." "This is exactly what those man verses wild shows warn people not do to and here you are driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with a puppy, one bottle of water and half a sandwich." "Turn around!" And I did.
That whole conversation with myself took about five seconds as soon as I left the black tar road and onto a little gravel one near Moclips Washington last weekend. I went there to spend time with God on the beach. I do that now and again each year. Kiss my family goodbye, pack a lunch and some books and drive two hours to watch the waves.
Mount Rainer has its splendorous vistas, Yakima desert offers vast emptiness and vibrant colors but for me there is nothing as inspiring as the vastness of the ocean to clear my head. When I see the waves rolling endlessly the perspective of my smallness next to the infinite drops of water is a humbling experience. The first words of a poem that I have yet to complete come crashing down upon my mind. "I am just the captain of a small wooden boat seeking mercy from your power."
The ocean is not infinite but it does a good job at faking it. There actually are limits to it. Shorelines contain it, the sea floor defines a finite depth and it is at the mercy of the pull of the moon and the spin of the earth. It is powerful beyond my imagination, able to give and take life. It shapes the earth at its whim and sometimes reminds us in tragic ways the full potential of its destructiveness. Immense but not infinite. Neither is the cadet blue sky above during the day or the speckled tapestry of stars at night. Science says the universe is limitless but I have my doubts about that too. The oceans and the sky are forgeries but my God my God they are good ones.
Tomorrow I go to a convergence in Colorado for what I pray is a transformational experience with God. Wild at Heart is the experience I am seeking and to be launched into a great, dangerous adventure as a man of God. Preparing for this was the reason I choose that day to go to the ocean. To be inspired and cleansed in quiet meditation with the truly infinite God. It was a great day. The beach was nearly void of people and the weather fine. I prayed, slept and breathed the salty mist deep into my lungs. I watched the tides roll in and out until the sea was a slowly moving rippling sheet of blue glass to the far horizons.
As the sun began to pull down towards the west I felt it was time to go. Packing up the beagle and the gear I decided to look for a different way home. I came from the south and leaving the beach I continued north on HY 109. At the Quinault Indian Reservation the road changed and so did I. I began listening to a new voice. One that did not like adventure at all, not one little bit no sir. That voice, having been silent all day, rose up like a tsunami in my chest. It said "What the hell are you doing man? Are you crazy?" "This is not for us! You're are not prepared or equipped to face this. No four wheel drive, your wife took the GPS and haven't you had your little adventure already? Be satisfied. Be safe."
I listened to that voice to my regret. I went out to hear God, to be open for what He had for me and at the time it got just a little less sure, a little less safe I backed down as if from a bully. This is what happens when you are not prepared to receive what you are asking for. I felt this the first time I went on street evangelism on the Seattle piers. I was shut down while others went up to strangers, some with crack pipes in their hands, and said "God loves you man!". A time that was intended to be all about God and all about reaching out to others became instead all about my own fears. I needed that experience to shake me up, to come face to face with my own hypocrisy. I could talk the talk but walking it was not something I wanted.
Preaching on Sunday is worlds apart from serving openly on Monday. I have grown much since that Seattle failure. But the dirt road has shown me there is no destination on this path for Christ. Only the journey. I think it is good to remember that. It keeps me from getting cocky and too full of myself. I truly am just the captain of a small wooden boat seeking mercy from your power but now I need the courage to crest the waves.
I think this is what the scripture is talking about in Mark 9:23-24.
"If you can’?" said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Me too God. Me too.
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