“The Church is like a great ship sailing the sea of the world and tossed by the waves of temptation in this life.” St. Boniface, letter 78
From the very beginning of our lives, we are dependent upon received grace. Grace that we have never given. Grace that we cannot immediately return. We are born needy. We are born unable to take care of ourselves. We are born without the clarity of right and wrong.
We are born a fountain of both sin and beauty. Sin and beauty are intermixed and interwoven. Inseparable to all but the scalpel that can separate body and spirit. Sin and beauty waiting for us to grow and mark our world. Waiting for the strength to build and tear down.
Then God gives us to broken people. To needy people. He gives us to crooked, kinked, and bent people to raise and train and teach and nurture us. And we, in our dependency and sin and beauty, are a gift to them. And they are a gift to us.
We each receive grace that we have never given before we can ever return it. We are fed, warmed, loved, and taught to sail our lives through the seas of life. And each of us is taught to sail by the captain of a shipwreck. And we, each and every one of us, proceeds to then shipwreck our lives.
We are inexperienced sailors, trained to sail by failed sailors and, without exception, we shipwrecks our life.
We try and call from our shipwrecks to our children, and friends, and family, and neighbors, “There are rocks here; rocks there. I know. That is one of the places I crashed.” In humility, we hope our confession becomes a lighthouse to our children and to others. We hope that they will sail further.
Many will call, “O Captain, my captain, your ship’s on the rocks. Surely I need not listen to you.”
Other times we let religious pride rule our lips and tell people to do what we have done. We do our best to make sure others crunch their life on the same rock shoal we have. But each of us is a failed sailor, floating on the shipwreck leftovers. We paddle our beam or mast together to worship God. But God, then, does what is beyond our wisdom to do. God takes our shipwrecks and makes a new boat. God picks up our shipwrecks and builds our mangles together. One provides a board for the hull, another a mast, another a steering wheel, another a rudder, and He lashes them together with another’s salty and used frayed rope. He sews together the tatters of our torn canvas into one great patchwork sail. Stained with blood, stained and tears, stained with years of salted grief, it catches the winds of the breath of God, and we sail.
Each of our shipwrecks leaves us vulnerable. Each of our shipwrecks tears our lives apart. Each of our shipwrecks tears us apart. But God navigates them all. Life’s shipwrecks to leave right pieces and remove the right pieces to fit us into this new boat that God is building.
We are all broken people. On our honest days we know it. But God is building a church, all made out of shipwrecks. It is all a gift. Because our God loves, our God builds us into one another. Lashing us together like foremast and flying jib. You might have broken your oars, but someone else has an oar or two. Together we make a whole ship. It may seem at times like the duct tape will not hold, or that we are taking on too much water. It might be frightening to look out and see the sharks circling the ship. But God is our navigator.
So bring your crashed and broken life to church. Others need your broken parts to be made whole.