In Acts, chapter 27, there is a wonderful adventure story about Paul’s experience with a shipwreck. Paul was a prisoner at the time, and was transported by ship across the Mediterranean, bound for Rome. He was accompanied by a group of fellow prisoners, a Roman army officer named Julius, the soldiers who guarded the prisoners, and the sailors who manned the ship. The ship was headed into a stormy season, and Paul warned the crew of the danger, but they decided to forge ahead.
As the storm progressed, the sails were lowered and the ship’s wheel was tied down; this allowed the ship to “go with the flow” of the winds. This was the first loss: the power to set direction.
Over a period of stormy days, the crew and passengers worked to keep the ship afloat. One by one, objects were surrendered to the sea: first the cargo, then the tools and navigational equipment, then the lifeboat, the food, and finally the anchors.
At one point, Paul had a dream that brought a promise from God: all those aboard the ship would survive, but the ship itself would be lost. For courage, Paul announced his dream to everyone on the ship.
The ship now had no direction, no cargo, no navigational tools, no food for sustenance, no anchors for stability, and no lifeboat to escape in.
But they had a promise from God.
In a final surge of the storm, the ship was washed up onto a sandbar near an island, and was pelted by the waves until it fell apart. Julius ordered everyone– prisoners, crew and soldiers– to swim to shore. They made their way, using broken pieces of the ship to buoy them up.
When everyone had made it to shore, they discovered they were on the island of Malta, and the friendly natives showed them hospitality until they were able to continue the voyage to Rome.
Ironically, this story of multiple losses is told in the context of the bigger story of the Church in its first phase of dramatic growth and movement. As the crew and passengers cast aside all they had once believed was necessary to their journey, they relied more and more on the promise of God to move them forward. By letting go of everything but his faith, Paul was able to carry his most important cargo, the Good News, to Rome.
As you look back on your church’s past, what has been thrown overboard through the years? What grief was involved in that? Why was it necessary to let go? In what new direction did the winds of the Spirit take your church when you had the courage to let it navigate your way?
What is God asking you to throw overboard now? And to what is God
beckoning you, as you lighten your load?