Back in the early 1990’s, the Rose Festival Naval Fleet that came to Portland, Oregon was nothing short of eye popping spectacular. A naval armada of twenty to thirty warships of all shapes and sizes made their port of call in Portland the first week of June. Many had just come back from seeing heavy action in the Persian Gulf War and were only all to happy for the diversion the Rose Festival could provide.
I wanted to see a warship up close and in person, so I headed down to the waterfront for a tour. Once inside the largest ship, I was amazed like most people, at the cramped sleeping quarters, hallways and dinning areas. The “War Room” was like something right out of a movie with it’s Captain’s Chair and computer screens seemingly everywhere. It was overwhelming to view the technology that allowed the ship to hit nearly any target hundreds of miles away to within six feet.
Amazing as these sights were, the most surprising thing I learned that day happened not below deck but above deck. Our guide was taking us on the final stretch of our tour when we came upon “the anchor.” It was massive like you would expect, but what the seaman said next took me by complete surprise.
“You might be impressed by the massive size of our anchor,” he said, “but in the open sea, with a healthy ocean current, this warship will toss that anchor around with very little effort.”
Well I could hardly believe it. The anchor looked massive enough to keep a ship half the size Seattle dead in it’s tracks in any ocean current, but then he continued.
“Actually, some people mistakingly think that when I drop anchor, I try to scrape the bottom of the ocean looking for a rocky ledge to hook onto and then pull tight the anchor chain. Kind of like setting a hook in a fish’s mouth. Well nothing could be farther from the truth.”
He went on to tell us, “Actually, the real object holding our ship in place is not the anchor, it’s the chain. Each link of chain weighs nearly two hundred pounds. Lay out three hundred feet of chain on the ocean floor and you will have far more weight in chain securing this warship than you currently see with this one anchor alone. The anchor’s real job is to secure the end of the chain. The chain in turn secures the ship.”
He turned, looked down at the anchor, smiled, then turned back to us and said, “It’s really not all that fair actually, but it’s the chain that does all the work and it’s the anchor that gets all the glory. The reason you would never know it, is because this all happens two hundred feet down on the ocean floor where no one can really see who or what is actually doing all the heavy lifting.”
Wow! I had no idea. I thought anchors held ships in place while the chains just held on for the ride. Come to find out with big ships like this one, it’s exactly the opposite of what I had always thought.
Now here it is, nearly twenty years later and I am still thinking about what that seaman told us on the deck of that warship. Twenty years later and I think I am just beginning to realize that life is much like warships with it’s “anchor points” and “chain events.”
Our lives are like ships that travel over life’s open sea full of currents, waves and storms. From time to time, we need to drop anchor and rest a while.
It’s during these times of rest that it comes as a welcome relief to attend ceremonies, conferences and retreats. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, motivational seminars and church retreats give us time to pause and reflect on the meaning and significance of our lives without all the noise.
It is during these times of contemplation and rest that I am often surprised by the mountaintop experiences that can often accompany them. Mountaintop experiences that can grow in their significance such that they feel like a massive “anchor point” in my life. It’s during these “anchor point” moments that I find newly minted resolve and commitment to make the needed changes in my priorities, relationships and daily disciplines that I am so eagerly looking for, at least for the time being.
And yet, like so many mountaintop experiences, there always seem to be the inevitable letdown that happens three to four weeks out. What once seemed like an immovable and massive “anchor point” just four weeks prior, has now been swept away so easily by the ocean currents and worries of everyday life. What once seemed like the beginning of a new chapter of hope and life change, has somehow found it’s way back to reliving reruns of old habits, familiar patterns and life as it was. Why is that?
Well maybe its that I have had it all wrong about what ceremonies, celebrations, and retreats are supposed to accomplish in my life. Maybe their job is not to “anchor” my ship as much as they are designed to simply secure the end of the “chain events” in my life.
“Chain event” are the daily relationships and disciplines that God calls me to look after that at first glance seem so insignificant but maybe in reality have a much greater role to play in anchoring my life. Daily relationships such as honoring those above you, cherishing those beside you. raising up those behind you, forgiving those who hurt you and compassion for those around you. Daily disciplines such as praying continually, blessing intentionally, instructing purposefully, correcting carefully, loving deeply, never slandering and above all else, guarding your heart.
“Chain events” that are made up of two hundred pound links laid end to end that when stretched out for three hundred feet on the ocean floor of life’s ocean, provide far more weight, stability and foundation for my ship than what any single “anchor point” could ever hope to supply. “Chain events” that in reality may do most of the work, while the “anchor point” get all the glory and why is that? Because it all happens two hundred feet below the surface of life’s ocean where no one is really aware of who or what is actually doing all the heavy lifting.
So what are the daily “chain events” that God is asking you to act upon that sometimes can feels more like an “anchor” around your neck? Is it a phone call to your parents or in-laws just to say “hello” that never seems to make the list? Does your wife or husband long to have you just sit a while and pray with them about the concerns of the home? Do the kids need you to tuck them in bed at night even if you are tired? Is there a neighbor that just needs a slow cup of coffee and a listening ear? Has the bible sat on your nightstand a bit too long? I think these are the “chain events” that God calls us to act upon that “anchor” our lives when the wind and waves of life’s ocean currents come crashing in and threaten to smash everything that we hold dear.
Jesus gave us a familiar parable in Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Some twenty years later, Paul would add these words from Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
What is it that you look to, to anchor your life? Are you looking for the one time celebration and mountaintop “anchor point” for solid footing? Or . . . are the “anchor points” and celebrations securing the daily discipline “chain events” laid out over hundreds of feet on the ocean floor of your life?
Long after the Rose Festival Naval Armada had set sail, the celebration of the Rose Parade had been forgotten, and the unnamed seaman had gone back out on another tour, who would have known his little story would leave me thinking after all these years. A story that has helped me put my sailing life into a little better order and understanding when I think about the roles and responsibilities of “anchor points” and “chain events”. I trust it has been pleasant sailing for you as well.
Written by D. Mike Collins
Photos by Geograph