The sky is gray. Gray skies are not unusual this time of year in this particular place, but not so welcome either. It’s gray and it’s cold. Not quite freezing, but rather the cold that reminds you that warm is not the normal climate around these parts.
I walked down the dock at a fast clip, computer bag hanging from one shoulder and my hands held close to my body. It is a bit of a walk so I want to cover the ground as quickly as possible. A long walk toward the sea wall then a left at the end of the covered dock houses and I am there.
I shove back the hatch and gaze below. It is semi dark as I turn backwards and try to negotiate my body and my computer bag through the companionway and down the ladder into the belly of the beast. I reach up and close the companionway, sliding the hatch closed. Ok, now it is kind of dark in here.
I stop for a moment as I lay my trusty writing companion aside. I take off my coat as well. Being a larger man inside a sailboat is crowded anyway, a coat and a computer bag make it seem that much more claustrophobic. I breath in. There is that smell of a 35 plus year old sailboat. Mildew, diesel, perhaps, even the faint hint of the holding tank register themselves in the sensing part of my brain. I bit unpleasant to the uninitiated but to me it is a welcoming scent. Well, perhaps not, but it is something my brain associates with this sanctuary of solace I call Redemption.
Redemption is the 30 foot sailboat given my by a Canadian fellow who had let her fall into such disrepair that selling her was difficult. I loved her type, her pedigree, her history and her designer as well. When I shared my love and knowledge of that particular boat he granted her to me with his blessing. As I left that day he hollered out after me, “b-o-a-t, Bring Out Another Thousand!”
The fireplace takes charcoal and it doesn’t take long for the cabin to begin to warm up. It smells like a barbeque joint without the meat. I should have thought of that before I came. Maybe next time.
The reason I am here is to process. I have grief. I have regrets. I have sorrow and depression. It’s that time of year and sometimes it is more difficult than others to face the winter time of our Northwest seasons. Sometimes it is difficult to face the fall and early winter of life as well. God forgives, and hopefully sometimes He is even willing to protect us from the poor choices of the past. So far, though, I haven’t noticed that he removes memories. I wish He did.
You, the dear reader, might be tempted to envy my blessed situation. I believe it’s ok to do so. I have done it in the past. I have looked at those who have had situations where they are able to go and pray, fast, seek and process in wonderful places and wonderful settings. Many is the occasion I have pondered that I would be so much better off if only I had such a place or opportunity. Truth is that it doesn’t help at all. Here is sit, surrounded by by all things of a charming nautical warmth. Outside the window is water and aquatic life, and I am no closer to finding the fast track to healing than I was when I came. Fortunately the fireplace is using up oxygen, combining it with fuel and giving off heat. Fresh air is coming in through the vents and the smell of the boat is getting less noticeable, or perhaps I am simply getting used to it.
I like to think that I am finally making life giving choices. Like the fire in the fireplace on my boat burning away the stench of my past. Let’s do the math; 8 years or so I was too young to be accountable and I cannot see any real big violations of the Ten Biggies for the past four years or so. I haven’t done stupid so often and nearly so efficiently as I used to and I love Jesus more than ever. So fifty three minus 12. I have about 41 years of accumulated rot and decay, neglect and disrepair. No wonder my sailboat is such a wreck. No wonder I am too.
Of course now I think about the boat. I think about the phantom diesel leak that makes me unable to pump my bilge legally, not to mention the smell. I think, about the dead short in the batteries that I am going to have to trace down and fix at some point. I think about the cleaning I’ve done and all that I have left to do, the nooks and crannys full of junk left by others. I think about the things I have done in the past and the damage those choices have done to others. I think about dreams and hopes short circuited. I even think about damage done to me. I am careful not to look at the people who perpetrated the vandalism on my body, mind and soul. I took some time a few months back and it was a painful process unraveling the anger, hurt and resentment in my heart. I really have forgiven and I believe that as I forgave so was I also forgiven. I don’t want to go backward there.
The pain of the past, the smell of the disrepair in my person, those things are almost friends. Not because they come around so often. I actually live a very happy life and am fulfilled in a way that I have never before experienced. It reminds me that this was and still is a restoration process. It takes time.
This pain is my friend because it is a reminder to me that I spent a great deal of treasure on a lifestyle that led to rot and decay. I sailed on happily in life, choosing to not attend to the maintenance and upkeep of the vessel. Of course the treasure that I refer to is the precious moments of life God places in our account at birth. I keep making withdrawals and spending life when I have no idea what the balance is. I don’t want to spend too much time on the thought of it all, but lingering in the pain reminds me to spend what I have left wisely.
With all of that wisdom I still cannot seem to break free of the whirlpool pull of life and obligation. I have a family and bills, a business and friends. I work too much and spend too much of my free time recovering from what I give out. I spend far too little time playing dinosaurs on the bedroom floor with my little boy. I want to scoop up my son and my lovely bride and run away. Have an adventure. I want to take some time to explore the canyons of Utah, the mountains of Colorado, the charms of Georgia and the Keys of Florida. I can’t.
The truth is that I have to go back to work. I must let the fire in the fireplace die out, open the companionway hatch and climb into the cold, chilly cockpit and onto the cold and empty dock. There is a chilly walk back to my car. I have obligations that must be met, bills that must be paid, and debts that never seem to go away. That hurts too, but the pain reminds me to look for the opportunities to do what I can do. It reminds me to lay on the floor, pull out the Lego’s and build a dream with my youngest. It reminds me to not hurry away from a wife’s tender kiss. It reminds me to hug and care for my middle son and to pray more him as well as for my oldest. It reminds me to smile wider, hug tighter, and to hold onto that hand I am shaking just a little bit longer.
I called the boat Redemption because that is what God is doing in my life. He is redeeming me. He purchased me with Blood and He made sure I was not going to sink. Now He is going through the process of fixing the wiring. He is cleaning up the mildew and rot and is throwing out all the extra junk that doesn’t belong there. It takes a while. Mostly because there is the 53 year old fat Irish guy in the way.
Painful days like this one remind me to stay out of God’s way while He works on me. Perhaps it is cramped inside me as well. It’s OK to feel like this today because tomorrow we will be one step closer to being shiny and new. Perhaps my life account is running low, or may even be zero balanced by tomorrow. I am going to spend the last few nickels and dimes I have left the very best way that I can. I think I’ll skip the meeting I have tonight and just go home. That would be nice!
Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to walk with me through this daze of gray. I’ll write something more uplifting later on, perhaps in a day or two. I am that way. I don’t stay down for long, but since I am here from time to time it would be less than honest to only allow you access to the parts that soar! I told Go d He could have access to my story, both that which is written and that which we are writing together. Thanks again.