You're an Ocean Liner.
If you’ve been around C&C for a while, you’ve probably picked up on three things about me. One, I’m a nerd. It is what it is. Two, I, for reasons only known to God, really like ocean liners. I love the design, the history, the tragedies. It is just all so fascinating to me. Three, I tend to think in pictures, stories and metaphor. These three odd but, hopefully endearing, traits have combined for today’s thought. I actually used this story a while back in my Bible fellowship class and I just couldn’t shake it so here is how we are like the R.M.S. Germanic. That’s right, in my mind, we are just like a White Star ship but if you think I'm crazy I want you to bear with me for just a second and I think you will agree.
In 1899, the Germanic was making her way across the Northern Atlantic which is some of the most treacherous bit of ocean regularly traveled and has taken down her fair share of boats including the ill-fated Titanic, also of the White Star Line. So, as the Germanic is cruising along the weather gets increasingly worse even by Atlantic standards and this changes many things for how the ship is going to function. One of the main changes, and the one relevant to our story, is that the wind became so dangerous that the crew couldn’t perform their tasks. See, in cold climates it is part of the crew’s daily job to remove ice build up from a ship so it doesn’t become top heavy and susceptible to listing (and eventually sinking). The wind on this voyage made climbing the rigging a death mission so they simply didn’t do it and the ice began to build up.
Not too long after her launch, the Germanic won the coveted Blue Riband for her western crossing, taking just under eight days to cross the Atlantic but by the time of our story, the holder Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, needed less than six but even at that speed a week is a long time for ice to build up and ice is heavy when unchecked as the Germanic quickly learned. By the time she came into port, she was listing starboard due to the build up and most passengers were quite anxious to touch solid ground.
Here’s our first lesson… often the things that sink us don’t come all at once. It’s easy to fight off the big issues because you recognize them. You know you need help. You understand the dangers. It’s the little things that have a better chance of sinking us because we don’t realize how damaging they can be or we feel we can put them off just a little longer. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I recognize that the crew of the Germanic were following protocol and choosing the lesser of the two evils. We are often faced with a similar choice where no option is great but the problem didn’t come for them all at once but slowly over time just like it does for us. These little things can be sin, worries, fears and more. Little by little they pile up until we capsize.
Back to the Germanic... Once in port and clearly having an issue, you would think they would have focused on removing the ice first but instead her cargo was unloaded because “time is money” and she had places to be. This made her even lighter and she did exactly what you’d expect. She sank… partially, because of course she did.
Lesson number two from the Germanic is this… just because you didn’t sink this time doesn’t mean you can continue to ignore the problem. How typically human is this? We are so busy and worn thin in our modern world that we often put off dealing with our problems until “a better time” not thinking we will fail. I had a very wise friend describing it as trying to keep all those plates spinning but there are just too many and too spread out to keep up. The biggest way I have seen this in my life recently is with rest and my health. There’s an old adage that if you don’t take time for your health, you’ll be forced to take time for your illness. I’ve spent most of my life convinced that I can rest further down the road. Just one more event. Just one more week. Just one more time until nearly a year ago when all my plates came crashing down.
You can’t ignore what needs to be handled simply because you have other things to do. I thought that because I had avoided disaster while limping along that I could keep that pace up. That’s not reality. You’ll eventually sink.
After the sinking, they decided to refloat the Germanic as was common practice. They closed up all of her portholes and began pumping the water out but they seemed to be getting nowhere until they realized that they had missed one porthole. That one gap allowed the water to come rushing back in as quickly as the pumps were taking it out creating a vicious cycle of ebb and flow. Our next lesson is in that pesky porthole. The smallest of gaps left behind can keep us from recovery. Sometimes, we think if we handle a majority of the issues we can skate by with a few unconquered areas but that’s rarely the case.
I see this the most with sin. We cut back to once a month or only with certain friends or whatever situation is appropriate for you and maybe it works for a while but eventually we fall back into the old ways because we’re broken humans. We like to play on the edges of possibilities and just like that one porthole of dozens, that little bit is enough to cause major damages.
Finally, they closed the porthole and began refloating the R.M.S. Germanic and her story ended quite happily. She sailed for another fifty one years before being scrapped. That’s our final lesson… a sinking doesn’t have to be the end for us. The Lord’s grace, provision and wisdom can “refloat” us and that disaster can just be a chapter in our book and not the end of our story.