This is a tale of two boats.
In 1998, two life-long friends, Yanne Larsson and Calle Andersson, sat gazing out into the ocean and taking stock of their lives. As middle-aged men, they realized they had settled for far less than they had dreamed for as younger men.
It didn’t take long for their casual conversation to turn into a plan to buy a sailboat and sail around the world together. They made a commitment not to let anything keep them from achieving their dream and sealed the deal with a handshake.
That handshake led to five years of planning, saving money, buying a boat—The Albatross—and learning how to navigate and sail.
In 2002, they set sail out of Helsingborg, Sweden, embarking on a three-year voyage that would change them forever. Their story is recorded in the book, “Brave or Stupid? The Unlikely True Story of How a Seasick Electrician Sailed Around the World.”
When I heard about their adventure, which included enduring vicious storms, seasickness, danger and adventure, my first thought was that they were foolish, yet lucky to be alive.
But I have to admit that there was a part of me that was a little bit jealous and envious that they actually had the courage to attempt something so outrageous. They had done something that was so beyond their reasonable limits that it radically changed their lives.
Now for the story of the second boat.
In 1909, the world’s largest showboat was christened the Goldenrod. For more than 100 years it traveled up and down the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers, hosting live shows and talent. Acts like Red Skelton and Bob Hope were frequent guests on the Goldenrod’s stage. And author Edna Ferber was inspired on one voyage to write the classic novel “Show Boat.”
My memories of the Goldenrod are slightly different.
In 2001, while traversing the Illinois River near Kampsville, Illinois, the Goldenrod suffered some damage to her hull and was beached. While awaiting repairs, a massive flood hit the area, wreaking havoc on the aging showboat.
Not long afterwards, a fire broke out on board, destroying everything that could burn. Today, when my family travels to my wife’s grandparent’s farm, we drive north on Route 100, passing by the wreckage of the once-glorious Goldenrod.
It’s haunting to see this once glorious boat now abandoned on the shore and slowly being dismantled for scrap. She is a far cry from her glory days, and it’s all because she sailed too close to the shore, then stayed there too long.
Now she is past any hope of ever returning to the water.
The stories of these two boats are a metaphor for our lives. In the Bible, there’s a story of a man named Nicodemus who came to Jesus with some questions under the cover of night. Jesus challenged him to catch the wind of God’s Spirit as it moved. Nicodemus was faced with a decision. Was he going to set sail on an adventure or rust out on the shore?
Jesus’ challenge to Nicodemus is still relevant to us today. We have to ask ourselves are we more like Larsson and Andersson that struck out on an outrageous adventure or do we lean toward the Goldenrod rusting on the shoreline?
Are we willing to raise the sails and catch the wind to follow God’s leading or are we content to drop anchor and hide in the harbor?
Boats aren’t built to rot away on the shore. And we weren’t created to play it safe, avoid risk and take no chances.
Can you imagine what would happen if, as followers of Jesus, we raised the sails and caught the wind of God’s Spirit? What adventures might we experience? What stories might we be able to tell? What encounter does God have right around the next corner for us?
I don’t know the answer, but my prayer is that as followers of Jesus we have a bias toward action and hoist the sails and see what God has in store. Together, let’s catch the wind!
Michael Kast is campus pastor of Southeast’s Elizabethtown Campus.