“If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship,” Thomas Aquinas wrote, “he would keep it in port forever.”
His point, of course, is that a ship is made to leave port and go out on the high seas. To explore. To carry cargo. To move people from place to place. Ships are made for a particular job, and it doesn’t make sense for them to avoid that job for the sake of self-preservation.
Aquinas’ point wasn’t only about ships, though. His point was to extend this metaphor to our lives. In the same way that a ship isn’t built to protect itself by staying in port, God calls us to lives of adventure and service. God calls us to lives that bring us out of our comfort zones to learn and grow and discover new things. Lives in which we are always listening to the voice that calls us into the future for the next chapter God is authoring for us.
As I write this, I’m thinking of a couple of recent adventures which my wife Amy and I have just completed.
First, we dropped off our youngest son, Andrew, to begin studies at West Point. That would have been an emotional and challenging drop-off under the best of circumstances, but travel delays and complications made it far worse. If you’ve seen Trains, Planes and Automobiles, it was kind of like that, but worse. He did arrive safely in the end, and all is well, but boy, getting him there wasn’t pretty.
After that experience, we completed a long-planned trip to the UK. Unlike the journey to West Point, that trip went very smoothly. We saw incredible sites, met with wonderful people, and—after the joy and excitement and adventure of travel—were delighted to return home again.
In each case, these experiences have left us with memories which will last for the rest of our lives. And in each case, these experiences have changed us.
Life does that. Like ships, we go out on the adventures God calls us to, and as we discover and learn and grow, we’re changed—hopefully becoming more fully the people God has made us to be.
Frederick Buechner, in his definition of the word “Grace,” talks about how—amid the adventures and experiences God calls us on—God always promises to be with us. Here’s what he says:
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.
Blessings to you, my friends, as you embrace the gift of your life, and experience all that God intends for you.