The Lawyer gently rested his aching back against the hard, wooden hull of the lifeboat. His whole body ached. His knees needed to be stretched but there was no way to move about in the tiny boat. His lips were cracked, chapped, and painfully dry, so were his throat and eyes; they felt like the desert. His feet were swollen and red from being in constant contact with salt water. Closing his burning, dry eyes he dreamed about laying on the soft, cool, green grass next to the stream that ran through his property. Would he ever see it again, he wondered. He looked at the sky and spoke to whatever greater power might reside there, “please send help” he mumbled.
The Carpenter curled his legs up tight to his chest in an effort to stretch out his aching back that had been injured years before on the job. Manual labor takes its toll on the body and his was no exception and sitting in the cramped lifeboat being tossed about by the sea twenty four hours a day had made the injury worse and the pain almost unbearable. He wanted to groan or roar in agony. He wanted to layout flat across the bottom of the boat to help alleviate the sharp stabbing pain, but there was no room. The others offered some sympathy but he was careful not to complain too much; they were all suffering. If he believed in a God this would have been a good time to pray, but he didn’t believe in God; Christianity was all mumbo jumbo to him. Besides, he was an honest man and knew he had lived a very ungodly life. A life any God would reject. He decided that his hope would rest in mankind’s ingenuity and determination to find them.
The Housewife absent-mindedly loosened her ponytail, running her fingers through the tangled, salt caked, dirty mess her hair had become and dreamed about taking a long, hot shower that would wash every last salt granule from her body. Her jeans had been wet or damp with saltwater for five days and her legs under the jeans felt raw from the abrasive saltwater. She stared at the endless sea; it was keeping her from her family. Were they looking for her? Were they eating well? Had the kids been doing their homework? Had her husband remembered to take out the garbage cans Monday night? She looked up at the grey sky that was threatening to rain again and wondered where God was right now, was He listening to her prayers. Would He answer her prayers? Or would He let the little lifeboat go down … a tear slid down her chapped cheeks. “Please be there, please answer, please save us.”
The homeless man was sick. He’d spent years going in and out of mental health facilities until the voices in his head convinced him that living on the streets was much safer than a facility. The voices also told him to stow away on a large ship which is how he ended up on the lifeboat. The sick man sat in the bow of the lifeboat mumbling to himself about comets and electric devices planted in his head. For five days his body had hardly moved but his mind had been to outer space and the Caribbean and the White House. He feared moving because the voices told him that if he did the lifeboat would sink. So he sat in the bow motionless and lost.
The Preacher tried hard to keep his mind focused on Bible verses that spoke of God’s love and His desire to protect His children. Several times over the last five days he had shared encouraging Bible verses with the others but quickly encountered derogatory comments from the Lawyer and Carpenter who asked how a God of love could allow His Preacher to be lost at sea, suffering from dehydration and starving. “Where was God’s protection now”, they asked. The Preacher responded with kindness and humbleness, saying God always knows best; that there was an important lesson to be learned out here in the middle of the sea. Only the Housewife received the Bible verses eagerly and recited them out loud like they were giving her life. The physical discomfort was hard for the Preacher, he was a man who studied and read; he wasn’t much of an outdoors man. “God please help me show your grace when all I want to do is cry” he prayed.
On day six the lawyer announced that the tiny amount of rations and water they had were gone. The Carpenter announced that he had been examining the hull and found a small leak. They both agreed that if they were not rescued within a few days they would all die. By day seven the bottom of the boat was covered in four inches of sea water adding to the group’s misery. In an effort to ignore their rumbling stomachs they began to bicker and pick on each. The Lawyer found the Preacher worthless the Housewife bossy and demanding like his ex-wife and the Carpenter a complainer.
The Carpenter found the Lawyer arrogant, the Housewife irritating, and the Preacher too Godly for the good of the group. The Housewife disliked the Lawyer deeming him too full of himself. She found the Carpenter crass and boorish, and the Preacher a good man but weak. The Preacher tried to rise above the bickering but found himself being sucked in by the judgmental in intolerant attitudes of the others. They all found the Homeless man scary and tried their best to ignore him.
On day eight a storm set in and began to toss the little lifeboat around like a tennis ball. Sea water was streaming in over the boat’s sides and up through the leak in the bottom of the boat. They all took turns bailing water but knew it was a losing battle. They were going to drown if something wasn’t done soon. The Lawyer declared that to survive they needed to lighten the weight within the boat and the only way to do so was to throw one or two of the group overboard. The rest pretended to be shocked at his declaration but in truth they all had been thinking the same thing.
Who was the weakest? Who added the least amount of value? Who was the most helpful to their survival? Most of the group thought a few members may be better off thrown from the boat because their lives were so full of struggles and hardship. The Lawyer had been thinking about this for days and had decided he would throw the homeless man and the carpenter from the boat because both were very weak physically.
The Carpenter feared throwing anyone overboard knowing the act would send him straight to Hell; if there was such a place. But, if pushed to make a decision he would throw the Preacher overboard because he would go straight to heaven. And of course the Homeless man who would be better off at peace in the afterlife. The Housewife was terrified to think of killing another human; God would punish them harshly by sending them all to the bottom of the ocean. But maybe the Homeless man would be better off, but then again the Bible talked about helping the helpless, what would she do? A devious thought crossed her mind, “maybe the world would be a kinder place without the Lawyer.”
The Preacher suggested that they all hold hands and pray as a group to be rescued before any rash decisions were made. Oddly enough the Lawyer agreed saying anything was worth a try. The Carpenter said any God worth a hill of beans wouldn’t listen to his prayers but he would go ahead and join in. What did he have to lose? The Housewife was almost ecstatic at hearing the Lawyer and Carpenter agree to pray. Then a small voice from the bow of the boat said, “God will bless you all for praying.”
The Preacher began by thanking God for the lifeboat and the safety it had given the group. They all had forgotten to be grateful. He then acknowledged that God was God of all to which the Lawyer and Carpenter scoffed a little but then quieted down. Next the Preacher said, “Lord, each one of us on this boat is going to ask you to rescue us today. Please answer our prayers and rescue us today.” He looked at the Housewife who immediately prayed the same thing. She in turn looked at the Carpenter who fidgeted a bit then in an uncomfortable voice also prayed to be rescued. Now, the Carpenter looked at the Lawyer who, in typical fashion said,” I’m praying to the Universe not God” and proceeded to ask to be rescued. Unexpectedly the Homeless man joined in with his eyes squeezed shut tightly. “Lord, God in heaven” he began, “Our Father, which art in heaven hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever amen.
As the homeless man said amen the sea calmed and the sun came out. All five looked up at the sky in astonishment. “Thank you God” the Preacher said, the group agreed in awed voices. A deep, strong voice carried by a gentle breeze said, “I love you all the same, not one of your prayers or lives has more value than the other. You are all my beloved children.” The Lawyer was scared and began to look around to see where the voice came from. The Carpenter cried and shook, the Housewife giggled and couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. The Preacher’s face glowed with awe and peace as he openly worshiped God. The Homeless man said, “I did as you requested Father, thank you.” In the distance a ships horn sounded. They were safe. They were safe in God’s love.
God’s love for humanity is a mystery to most of us because It’s unlike the love we’re capable of giving. God’s love for mankind is a love without a value system, He loves and values every one of us the same. He hears all sincere prayers with a loving ear and heart. The Bible states that He wants us to pray together and when we do he is there among us.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Psalms 36:7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Debora Shelford Hobbs