The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name (Psalm 23:1-3).
These days of summer I am wont to taking a walk into my Virginia town of about 75 minutes. This journey takes me through the agricultural section of the local university, a large concern.
Every time I make this trek I see something different. For example, last week there were four young bulls playfully fighting, their heads focused inward toward each other. Their bodies jutted out from their heads, making the latter the center of a black kaleidoscope.
Yesterday I passed two flocks of sheep which I had not previously seen. I supposed that not having seen them before was due to my having gotten out earlier this particular morning.
The sheep in the first flock ignored me, diligently munching on the green grass in their pasture. All except one that is.
This black-faced rogue stared through the fence at me, almost angrily. It was as if it was telling me to get them out of there, or to give them something more than the grass all around.
I thought,”Even for a sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side.” This sheep didn’t know what was good for them.
Here God had provided for their need that which was particularly suited for their position in life. Yet, this particular animal appeared to want something different, perhaps even wishing they were walking outside the fence with me on the way to the coffee shop instead of chewing on a blade of grass!
This sheep reminded me of Harvey Cheyne, a character from a Kipling novel. I learned of him from a 1996 movie called Captains Courageous, which adapted the story for television.
In this story Harvey is an extremely rich 16-year old who is also a self centered brat. On an ocean cruise he falls overboard and is seemingly lost. However, he is picked up by a small fishing vessel captained by the demanding Captain Troop.
Harvey remains in character after his rescue, insisting on special treatment. He tries to bribe Captain Troop to take him back to shore. Troop tells him ‘no’, noting that they would be out to see for several months to fish, which was the crew’s livelihood.
Troop makes the boy work, something he is not accustomed to. Harvey refuses and hears from the captain,”You don’t work, you don’t eat.”
After a period of resistance, Harvey slowly comes around. He learns the fishing trade with the help of Dan, Captain Troop’s son. He also learns some life lessons and matures into a fine young man.
David Jeremiah tells a similar story of a man who is out to sea on a small raft when a storm hits. As much as he tries, the man cannot prevent the craft from sinking.
Like Harvey, he is picked up by another vessel, this time a large ship. The captain of this boat tells the man,”I’m sure you don’t mind helping out in the galley. We are short handed.” Unlike Harvey, the man is so happy and grateful over being saved that he is willing to do anything.
David Jeremiah likens this to our salvation through Jesus Christ. We are in the place of rescue from our dire straits at the point of salvation, but we are not saved to inactivity. Jeremiah points out that we are saved by grace, but also for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
I see a lot of application to the stories of Harvey and the man on the raft. I too have been rescued.
During the previous year I was alone in a foreign country, with no family or Christian fellowship. I cried out for rescue from these lonely circumstances.
During this time I was tossed about as if I was on the ocean. I felt adrift and pleaded with the Lord.
Finally, this summer God heard my cry led me back home. I am finally with my wife and children and ecstatic to be home and connected to my friends and church.
However, I am also currently unemployed. I can see from the episodes o f Harvey and the raft man that I have a choice to make in terms of how I view my new condition.
I have determined that I should not expect to sit around my house and do nothing as Harvey did. The crew (my family) needs my help, not a freeloader.
Part of me does feels like Harvey did when he was first rescued. I have these thoughts of being too important or too “good” for certain tasks.
However, another part of me knows that I may have to take what seems to be an unpleasant job in order for me and my family to continue to survive. I am so grateful to be away from my own personal “ocean” that I am willing to do anything to avoid being tossed overboard again.
I have a suspicion that even work with menial tasks can teach me something new and lead to a broader ministry. In Captains Courageous, Harvey plans to build a hospital in Captain Troop’s hometown out of thanks and gratitude once he is back on shore. He can do this because through his perseverance in his messy fishing job his life is restored.
I believe God can lead me in the same way, taking what appears to be a dead end job and make it into something special. Looking at others and thinking that they have it better than me, or that my little “pasture” is too beneath me misses the point of who I am and what God has created me to be for His glory.