Monday, January 30, 2012

What was he thinking?

Yesterday morning, I sat with a group of people discussing the tragedy of the cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy. Apparently, the captain of the ship was steering the ship too close to the shore on one side, flashing the ship's fancy lights and tooting its horns for the amusement of the passengers and the people onshore, and subsequently hit a submerged rock on the other side, cutting a 160-foot gash in the side of the boat below the waterline.

What was he thinking?

Then he made the decision to leave the ship before many of the passengers, offering up the excuse that he would be better able to direct the evacuation from the shore, from a safer, more sturdy and well-lit location, being that there was no longer electricity on the ship.

What was he thinking? Isn't it his responsibility as captain to go down with the ship, if necessary?

In our discussion yesterday, we were informed that there is no legal requirement that captains go down with their ships, but we agreed that the moral, ethical, responsible thing for the commanding officer to do is remain on board until every attempt has been made to rescue all the passengers and crew. Anything less is cowardly, and all the ridicule and punishment that the captain must now face, he deserves.

The question kept coming up: what was he thinking?

As the conversation wound down to its conclusion, my thoughts took a u-turn, a "you turn."

What are you thinking, Gail, everytime you toot your own horn and flash your own lights? What am I thinking when I tell stories of my high school and collegiate "glory days"? I can hear myself now: I was such a good runner that... I was such a great speaker that... I was such a notable leader on campus that... I was such an inspiring teacher that... I was such a wise mother that...

The truth is that while all those good things were happening up on deck, I was cutting quite a few gashes below the waterline of my own life. I lied. I cheated. I stole. I coveted. I covered up. I lived a lie. I denied my wrongdoings. I pointed out the minor infractions in the lives of people around me and tried desperately to ignore the rule-breaking, heart-shattering life I was living. I found it easy to point out the ways in which other people seemed to be abandoning the wrecks and ruins they were creating in their own lives while hoping that no one would notice the frantic bailing of water I was doing in mine.

What are you thinking, Gail, everytime you pretend that your life is all gratitude, all joy, all peace all the time, when there are leaks, blown fuses, clogged pipes, settling cracks, and stained carpets in every room of your soul's home? What are you thinking, Gail, everytime you open up a clean page in your journal and lay out yet another escape plan from your life? How many rules are you still breaking, Gail? How many lies are you telling to cover up earlier lies? How are you any better than that captain in terms of cowardice and escapism?

What am I thinking?

Right now, I'm thinking that the story of this shipwreck that is my life is tragic and beautiful, full and empty, joy-filled and tear-stained. It is plagued with pride, deceit, and weakness. But it is also streaked through with laughter, love, and forgiveness.

Right now, I'm thinking that for every betrayal I have perpetrated, for every lie I have told, for every wild goose I have chased, for every sabbath I have not kept, for every idol I have builty up and then bowed down to, for every neighbor's ass I have coveted, grace has covered my sin with still more grace. For every light I have flashed, for every horn I have tooted, for every hole I have cut into the ship of my life, mercy has been multiplied on my behalf. For every time I have abandoned ship under false pretenses, shrouded in weak excuses, I am welcomed to shore. I am welcomed home. I am forgiven. I am unworthy. I am grateful.

When I think about the true story of my life, the stories I will never tell here on the blog, the stories I will never tell anyone ever, when I think about God and how much I have come to believe that God loves me, that like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God keeps running out to greet me everytime I drag my filthy, stinky self back home, when I think about the fact that God knows everything about me and still welcomes me home, I am left with only one question:

What is God thinking?


Jena said...

Oh Gail. This is so beautifully expressed. Today you are my one.

GailNHB said...

Thanks so much, Jena, for your loving wo- rds. Your presence here and there and wherever you find yourself - is a gift to all who know you. Peace be with you, my friend.