“I don’t mean to say ‘I told you so,’ but I told you so!” I kind of doubt that he really didn’t mean to tell me that. My buddy was listening to me complain about a job I had accepted for the summer that turned out to be a disaster! True, he had warned me not to do it, but my stubborn pride insisted I could make everything alright. I couldn’t. I hate being wrong, and what made it worse is that he was right all along!
It seems we humans always have to learn things the hard way, and even then, when we try to keep someone else from making the same mistake, invariably they choose to ignore your hard learned lesson. As a parent, I tell my girls all the time “I want you ladies to grow up into responsible adults. Don’t make the same mistakes I did!” Will they listen? We’ll see!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 27:1-44; 28:1:
As they had been long without food, Paul then came forward among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run on some island.”
When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they sounded and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for the day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go.
So, our precious St. Paul has been sent by Festus the procurator, and by King Agrippa, to Rome to stand before the Emperor to defend himself against the charges made against him by the Jewish leaders in Judea. By the way, so many soldiers charged with guarding the Apostle Paul converted to Christianity that they had to start changing the guards more frequently. Way to go, Paul!
Paul is on a ship heading to Rome and the ship has now gotten into real trouble. Paul had warned the men that they shouldn’t have pressed on in their journey, but they wouldn’t listen to him. He wasn’t worried of course because he had been told by the Lord that he would make it to Rome. But they pagans on the boat with him didn’t trust the wisdom of this prisoner. In pressing on with the journey now they found themselves in actual peril for their very lives. They had already had to cast all their cargo overboard in an attempt to save the ship, so the investors who had chartered the ship to move their goods were out of luck. When they noticed the waters getting shallower, some of the men on board lowered the lifeboats to escape the ship. But Paul warned his guard that if they left the ship they would die. So the centurion, who by now trusted his prisoner more than these seasoned sailors, cut the ropes to the lifeboats and kept everyone on board. And they were saved from destruction.
There is something peaceful about someone who is calm in the face of calamity. A certain credibility attaches to one who can keep his head while everyone else is panicking. It didn’t escape the notice of the Roman centurion that Paul was at peace in these dire situations. And that very peacefulness saved everyone on board. But, of course, that’s the result of a sure confidence in what you are called to be. That calmness, that wakefulness to God’s purpose flows from faith and trust that God knows what He’s doing. Only when we take things into our own hands and make choices based on the immediacy of the situation do we find our lives shipwrecked on bad choices!
Today, are you facing shipwreck in your life? Have you ever felt the panic of a terrifying situation that you didn’t know the outcome? Everyone has at one time or another. The peaceful life that is formed in the rhythm of a daily doing of the Faith is the natural result of being Orthodox on Purpose!