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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lost at Sea*

Cast your bread upon the waters; after a long time you may find it again. --Ecclesiastes 11:1
The old man struggled with the oars, pulling with all his might and fighting only to make small headway in his overladen barque. He cursed the weather, cursed the wind, cursed the waves and cursed the lightning that lit the snarling sea. Up the crests and down the valleys his little boat dipped and plunged, threatening submersion as it scudded into each oncoming wave. Somehow he managed to keep the boat afloat, somehow he managed to convince the unruly beast to right itself and ride up the wave rather than through. For hours he rowed, for hours he fought until his arms could row no longer and he thought surely daylight must come. It came not. The clouds, thick with danger, had gathered to block out the sun, to turn each hopeful ray back upon its source and give the fool no glimpse of hope.

Long after daylight should have come and all energy was spent, as the thunder rumbled its taunting laughter at his folly, he knew that he would make no progress in this manner. Turning his cursing to petition he pleaded with the One who had made the winds and rains, the One who had brought him to this place, the One who alone could carry him safely home.

But the clouds did not part, nor did ray of sun carry through the angry storm, the rain did not cease, the waves did not calm and still he rowed. For hours more his hopeless skiff looked to capsize, leaving him and all he owned adrift in a raging storm that seemed likely never to end. Once more he turned to pleading, begging, importuning the One to whom all things belong. Finishing his supplications, he knew the deed that must be done. Not knowing in which crate his life would lay, he cut all loose and threw his dreams into the sea.

His skiff now unfettered, no longer lingered, but sailed as though with wings, up and over each mighty crest and on toward the shore. With energy that he could not, should not have, the old man poured himself once more into rowing, and at long last, many hours later, he found himself coming safely ashore with nothing of his possessions but his little boat and himself in sight. Dragging the war-worn dinghy ashore, he laid it over himself and fell asleep as the storm roared around him.

When at last he woke and threw the row-boat off, he looked to sea in hopes that some small particle might have followed him to shore, but he looked to find nothing but his shoes. Pulling them onto his feet and praying to God that these should be sufficient, he clambered up the dune and into town.

Many years later, bringing offerings of thanksgiving, the old man returned to the place of his safe landing. As he shuffled down the dune up which he'd walked so long before, his eyes alighted upon a lonely crate sitting on the sand. Running to unclose it, he gasped and laughed and leapt like a child when his wife, once lost to the angry sea, burst into his arms and covered him in love forever more.

*I hate naming stories almost as much as I hate writing their endings.

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