Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s that time of year to ready the garden for the (long) winter. It means cutting back and covering over, and it often means wintering over. I’ve not had much success with wintering over plants, but this year I have renewed enthusiasm to give it a try, to provide safe harbour from the winter’s cold for my geraniums and hibiscus that have blessed me with such beautiful blooms and luscious leaves this summer.
Harbour. The word brings visions of boats tucked in and moored within the protection of a small cove while the storm passes. Ships clinging by tether to docks, passengers and captains and pilots bustling up and down the gangway, the smell of fresh paint and the sound of hammers swooshing and drills whining, the weaving around hobby fishermen with their lines dipped in lapping water. It too gives greater texture to the expressions like safe harbour, harbouring a fugitive, not the brightest light in the harbour, and harbouring a grudge or resentment.
“Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
(John 14:27, The Message)
Much can happen while in the harbour. The wise use of time spent there can be to great advantage. Vessels can be repaired and renewed and restocked. Plans and course direction can be revisited and revised. Opportunity for renewal, if you will. But does the vessel remain forever tethered in a harbour? Unlikely. Ships are meant to lift anchor and set out to sea; meant to sail to fulfill their purpose. If they remain forever in the harbour, they become at best dormant tourist attractions, at worst chunks of rot and rust floating in the water.
Hmmm… I often spend waaay too much time dry-docked on judgement in the harbour, on unforgiveness and nursing wounds so much they can become grudges. Clinging to the dock of guilt, of resentment. Surely not a wise use of my time whilst in this safe and protected cove of recovery, of opportunity for renewal. No, many of those times whilst anchored I’ve failed to seize them as moments to rest, recoup and review; to reap godly wisdom, to develop godly character and integrity, to learn and lift anchor to move on; to hoist the sails and catch the winds of new vision that carry me to ports unknown, to embrace with renewed enthusiasm that which the Lord offers out to me like a treasure map.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”
– Captain Jack Sparrow
Where I am, where I stay, is my choice. Mine, and no one else’s. Mine. Independent of circumstance and situation and what’s in other people’s heads and how they act. I am responsible for my choice, and its harvest. To remain anchored is to rust, at worst to be pointed at as a tourist attraction. To untether is to set the sails into the winds of hope and potential of adventure into the unknown. But to be very honest, I don’t know that choosing to untether and move forward means that I can force myself to fully forget what storm anchored me there in the first place. I don’t know that most of us are honestly entirely capable of that. Just yet anyway. What I think it means is this: strengthened by the Captain’s Hands around my own, stocked by Him with greater awareness, with greater wisdom, with seeds of integrity and godly character planted or fertilized or watered or a combination of all three, He and I together untie the tether that anchors me down to the dock. Freedom is mine in the choosing, in the agreeing to loosen the knot with the Captain’s help, in choosing to pardon: an act that will and really does liberate me too I soon find out. Freedom is mine in what follows that choice, for it ultimately brings relief as it releases responsibility into Hands that are more just, more willing, more able and more knowing than my own. I can use my freedom to choose to shout, “Lift anchor!” and to move forward in freedom, into freedom.
“If you choose to lock your heart away, you’ll lose it for certain.”
– Captain Jack Sparrow
Friends, we are not meant to stay anchored in the harbour! We may spend some time there, but we are not meant to become its permanent residents. Just as the geraniums and hibiscus are meant for the outdoors in the Spring, we are so meant for the wide open, to bloom and spread in the glorious vistas. We are meant to sail on the open seas, to breathe in the healthy salty air, to enthusiastically say “Aye!” to the Captain and trust the great Plan He steers by.
And His wind in our sails cannot move us if we choose to remain tethered to the dock.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:36, New Revised Standard Version)
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
(Galatians 5:1, New Revised Standard Version)
Soil and Seed