Sometimes in life I feel like the Great White Whale being pursued relentlessly by Ahab. Tangled by ropes with harpoons piercing my side I plow through the ocean of life trying to take down my enemy and survive.
Dramatic, I know. True? Somewhat, not completely but that’s how I feel. I’m exiting one of these literary inspired seasons right now. They usually start the same way. A sudden increase in pesky gnat like annoyances and responsibilities I can’t hand off to someone else. Not major problems, just a swarm of regular life tasks that must be dealt with all at once. This is typically accompanied by a large number of people who need my help to accomplish their goals or fix their problems. Then, when I’m not looking because I’m so busy with my ‘to do’ list, I hear, “Whale Ho!” and a harpoon pierces my hide.
Harpoons take me by surprise either because of their mass or because of their tragic nature. They knock the wind out of me and this is usually when I can get into trouble. Like Melville’s whale I have a natural tendency to believe I have to take care of life’s cares and tragedies on my own. That is my biggest mistake. I might as well post an “Open Season on Whales” sign.
This is where the analogy falls apart. The reality is that I am not a lone beast out in the world being hunted by an evil maniacal hunter bent on my destruction with no recourse but to lash out and fight to survive or die trying. The truth is I am not alone. I am not responsible for taking out my enemy or deflecting the harpoons of life on my own. I am much more than an animal that wanders through life on instinct but I sometimes live as if I believe this.
I try to be my own source of life and strength. It might seem to work for a little while but it doesn’t take long to find myself depleted like a branch cut off from a vine. The flower blooms for a time but without the source of life that flows through the vine I soon wither and fade.
Jesus said he could do nothing apart from his father (John 5:19). Nothing. Author of Life. Bright and Morning Star. Conqueror of Death. And he said he can do nothing if he is apart from the Father. So why is it I live as if I can do what he couldn’t? Somewhere along the way I forget what I know is true.
”I am the true vine … remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:1, 4-6
And then it happens. I hear His voice. I’m nudged. Reminded. Maybe even knocked in the head really hard. He gets my attention and I remember that life separated from him is more than lonely, it is unnecessarily lifeless. But when I surrender my mind, my will to him and say, “I give you everything. Even my inability to know how to live as the branch connected to you,” I receive a fresh flow of his life giving Spirit. I am no longer the whale thrashing in the sea but I am surrounded by an ocean of Peace. The whaling boats are on the surface but I am surrounded by him.
Now I find myself entering a season marked more by dependence and surrender than independence and striving. Chances are at some point I will find myself being pursued again. Maybe next time it won’t take so many harpoons to remind me to dive deeper into his sea of life.