This is one of my favorite passages of the Bible:
Jonah 1:13-16 “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.’ Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.”
We sailors have been a superstitious lot for all of history. Modern sailors, through the use of scuttlebutt rumor, are no different. The sailors carting a very cowardly Jonah (his name means “dove”) were suspicious enough to try figuring out which deity had caused the rough seas. Finally, the lot is cast on Jonah, who finally admits that he has blown it.
Sailors are stubborn, as these ancient salts were. Instead of immediately doing what Jonah says will save their lives, they try to get back to land instead. This is how modern sailors are as well. Believe me…not only have I seen it, but I’ve lived it! How often have I decided to row back to land (or try to) instead of doing what I know is right in the middle of a storm in my life?
But the crux of the story, as it relates to God’s relentless pursuit of sailors, is that he uses even the disobedient, cowardly Jonah to reach them. This is also the crux of my life. On my recent deployment, I witnessed outright to exactly one handful of men. That’s not even an average of one per month. Since the end of deployment, I have spoken to one more. Less than one per month still.
I am, like Jonah, a dove, not the warrior I want to be. I am a coward. I’m grateful, however, that God has used me to lead perhaps a small boat of men to him, and until I am the man I want to be, I will continue mentoring the ones I have been given to lead. Someday, I will courageously sprint into storms to rescue sailors.
Until then, I will take courage in the fact that God has been reaching out to sailors far longer than I have, and will be doing so long after I am gone.