Three months seemed more like six or more. But it ended. Gotta say it was far more than I expected, and quite different from the last time I got underway with a ship. I’ve never been to sea with so many people on such a big vessel. Frankly, I don’t think I could’ve predicted the different dynamics. And they were certainly different. I spent most of the time doing everything but the usual things in my job description. Which should illuminate how the whole thing works. The job description is more like a guideline from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Something broke – in me, not the ship – on this trip. I’m still unable to pin down just what goes on. Maybe it’s an early mid-life thingy or just the entirely new environment after several years of being on land. At least those might contribute.
The barrage of humanity – close, heavy, overwhelming and incessant was quick to become a problem. My last experience on a ship did not include the perspective I have of life, the universe and everything that I have now. And I took much of the sailorese, tradition and general dirt of people rather hard. It is difficult like nothing else I can think of to maintain peace and patience in the midst of the world when the world is condensed into a couple of thousand people living in a giant shoe-box on the sea.
To really explain all this out is more than I can put into a single post. That is why several of the previous entries are more poetic attempts to capture some of what I was feeling at the time.
Suffice to say, it was a shock nearly every day to hear the crassness, the dark thoughts and misery of regular people again after so long. I’ve been sheltered for a long time. I don’t like it, but I got the point rather late that there really is a real world and I’m part of it. I got my sailorese – the cussin’ and foulness back fairly quickly and then spent the duration fighting against it.
I lost a lot of faith, in a way, but I gained some insight into the mechanics of The Faith as well. There is something to be said about ivory tower Christianity, but in all, the isolation from Real World may be more of a loss. Though I find it distasteful or distressing (depending on the particulars), I think it’s better to be “in the mix” rather than in a monastery. We forget the complexity of depravity and corruption (our own!) when we stay in our houses, our little support circles and home-schools. Apart doesn’t mean out-of, though every time I’ve been in there, I’ve wanted to run. A few times should have seen me running but I didn’t, and I hate that.
I also learned that to compare me to those great trials in the Scriptures (or anywhere else), in light of this common world is a difficult and often not-so-profitable exercise. Yes, my difficulties may well pale in comparison to those of the greats – David and Joseph, Paul and Christ – but I am not them – just a shadow of their massive weights on our lives. They set a standard for righteousness and suffering all at once, but I think we forget that they are (especially Jesus) more than we are. They are first things, the Formers and the Designers – hand-picked by God Almighty for essential elements of His plan of redemption and we are not co-actors on that level. We are recipients of their gifts of suffering, goodness, faith and all that entails.
Though I take up my cross daily, in emulation of Christ, I do not take up His Cross. That one I cannot take up; only He could. So I am not safely comparable to Him in my own trials. I am small and weak (made manifestly obvious during the last three months), and need Him for my support. I cannot endure what the greats endured for I am not in that select crew. I am not downplaying the Christian position; rather I am thinking that we over-rate our individual status in suffering and trials in some way that makes us equal to the task.
And we’re not. At least I’m not.
To accept this (provided I’m thinking rightly) may be a key to a right standing before the benevolent Father and His interceding Son. Broken and needy is far greater than safely cushioned in a fall. Fall far enough, fast enough and no amount of pious cushion can save. The impact reveals the lie.
Crying out to the Father-Son-Spirit for help sometimes ends up best when I don’t feel safe. Pleading for my life may end best with that uncertainty that comes from a desolate echo in my heart, reminding me that there’s still more to bear, more to fear, more trudging and sweating and groaning.
Remind me, o Spirit,
of my smallness, my weak estate.
for I depend, every second
on thy provision to make
my breath upon my lips
my gaze upon God’s grace
my feet fast on the earth
my trust truly trusting
And not upon my own work
Which fails as it stands.
The claim is that religion is a crutch. That may be fairly accurate from time to time.
Sometime the claim falls sorely short. The Faith is sometimes a gurney.
With an IV, straps, blankets and a half-dozen people trucking along with gauze, pain-killers, sutures and other bloody tools making slow headway in just keeping the patient alive during the trip.