It was back in October 1992 that a very brave sailor named Mike Plant commenced a solo crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean. He was going from the US to France—a non-stop around-the-world race. Tragically something went wrong two weeks into the voyage, and he capsized in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There had been no radio contact, and Mike’s body was never found.
The strange thing about this was that Mike Plant was an expert sailor who had travelled around the world twice before. He was very skilful and his 60-foot yacht was state-of-the-art—the design and materials were the best. Mike Plant had even bought a new emergency position-indicating beacon that would transmit a message to a satellite if there was any difficulty. His friends and parents were confident—they were sure nothing could go wrong. But something did go wrong. Experts knew violent storms were part of the situation. But when his radio was silent for a few days, his family and friends started to get a bit worried. A search was launched—ships were asked to be on the look-out, and rescue aircraft began looking.
Days passed with no signals or sightings. Then one day news came: a boat was found floating upside down. No sign of Mike Plant. The life raft was still in the cabin. Everyone was surprised —how could the boat be upside down? Sailboats are built to take the most vigorous treatment the sea can dish out—they are built to right themselves even if they are knocked over! These boats must have more weight below the waterline than above to avoid tipping over.
When the boat was checked out, they looked for the 8,000-pound weight that should have been bolted to the keel, called the keel bulb. It was missing. Any boat could not remain upright in a strong wind. The boat had become a death trap, because it could not right itself. Was there a defect in the boat building process? No-one knows the answer—the first wave or wind would have knocked it over like a feather. What a tragedy—a capable, experienced and much-admired sailor perished aged 41 years old.
I think there is a good lesson for us, and a question I ask: what is below your waterline? In other words, do you have something stable and strong in your life which keeps you on course, and stops you from capsizing? We can present a good image to other people but they may not know what’s really going on underneath the surface. There is the public part of our lives that everyone sees, and the part not seen by others. And yet the real you and me lies beneath the surface—our character and belief system, and principles to live by. It’s what happens below the water line that involves the soul. At the very depth of our life we need something that provides us with weight and strength, especially when the storms come. And come they will.
Maybe you had a big storm in recent days. What happens then? What keeps us afloat? What holds us together? When life is smooth sailing, with no dramas or difficulties, it can be OK. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that we will have a life without pain, struggle or inconvenience. And when they occur, how do we handle them?
Unfortunately today’s thinking says, “build up wealth and fortune and popularity, and you’ll succeed”. Reminds me of the Bible story in Luke when Jesus said, “owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe” (12:15). Jesus was talking about a man who had everything in life—big farm, prosperous harvest and lots of money. He had big plans to expand his business. But God said to him, “Don’t be a fool. Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?” He had his priorities all wrong, and didn’t realise life was to end. Life is not about money or success—we need more than that. We need a foundation that will go onto eternity. Life is not only about the ‘here and now’. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “Things that are seen don’t last forever. But things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that can’t be seen”.
If you’re looking for something solid in your life, I’d like to leave 1 Corinthians 3:11 with you: We must be careful how we build because Christ is the only foundation.