Monday, September 3, 2012

A Ship in a Bottle Gathers no Dust

I found today's quote by nineteenth century Presbyterian minister William Shedd while researching for a magazine article. It jumped off the screen at me. Why? Not because it is especially intellectual or even necessarily clever. It is simply true, and therefore profound.

"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."

A ship forever anchored will never have her sails ripped to shreds by contrary winds, will never have to watch her sailors throw precious cargo overboard in a desperate attempt to save their lives. She will never have to fear running aground on a reef, no ominous cracking sound as unseen rocks rip through the hull. If the Titanic had stayed in Southhampton harbor it never would have sunk.

Our lives are no different. It is certainly easier to hide in a closet (literally or figurately). If we say nothing, no one can tell us we are wrong. If we do nothing, no one can judge our actions. If we do not fight for our beliefs, they will never be challenged. If we do not love, we can never be rejected. If we never have any expectations, we will never be disappointed. But, what is the price for that security? The inactive man has no enemies, but he also doesn't have any friends. It goes both ways.

I have thought a lot about this in regards to my own life, particularly my writing. I don't have nearly as much life experience and education as some. I am not a Dickens or a Hemmingway or a Faulkner. Sometimes I wonder what I have to offer. What do I have to say that hasn't already been said by someone else? What do any of us have to offer, really? Only what God has given us, no more, no less.

Someone said to me the other day that if you have the opportunity to be an influence, you ought to be. It doesn't matter if someone else is a greater influence than you are or if someone tells you to sit down. It matters only that what you are doing is worthwhile, that it brings glory to God. I am reminded of the song "Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha:

"This is my quest, to follow that star
"No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
"To fight for the right, without question or pause
"To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause."

Are we willing to do what it takes for the right causes? "Hell" certainly isn't a safe harbor, but if the cause is heavenly...

All I'm trying to say is that a ship in a bottle is a prisoner. If we likewise value safety or false security more than anything, we are no better, except that the bottles are of our own making. We have forged our own anchors. A ship in a bottle gathers no dust, but it doesn't do anything else either.