Setting Sail By Example

Many of us set sail in life, on a quest for significance and meaning.  Our voyage is in an attempt to ‘find ourselves’, instead of finding God and living by His ways.  We have no idea who we are, nor the image we’re called to reflect, because we are unaware of whose image we were created in.  So we go in search of creating an image all of our own.

But then there are those who know who they are, and don’t spend their time staring into pools of blue so they can simply see their own reflection looking back at them.  Their actions reflect great understanding of who their Maker is, which led them into obedience in serving Him, no matter what the cost.  So they set sail, providing an example to the rest of us.  

A particular group of people come to mind when I think of those who made God their focus, by lovingly seeking to obey Him at all costs. This was a group of “Separatists” that boarded the Mayflower in England and persisted through unbearable circumstances.  Their determination to serve God according to the scriptures, by making the Bible their ultimate authority, afforded them opportunity in what became the state of Massachusetts in the New World.

What makes this story dear to me personally, is that a couple of years ago I learned I was the direct descendant of a five year-old daughter from one of the Pilgrim families who came to this land for that exact purpose. I had always been told I had American Indian in me, but it turned out my family attended the first Thanksgiving as a newly arrived resident of the land, instead of having had prior occupancy, as a Native American Indian.

Yet if we each dig through the Bible passages in the book of Genesis, we all ‘Noah’ relative we share in common.  He, like the pilgrims, found his calling involving a boat; an ark to be exact.  After having been declared righteous by God, during a time when  human wickedness soaked the souls of those around him, Noah not only boarded a boat, but he also spent many prior years fervently building it as God had commanded.  The blessing of being labeled by God as “righteous” was strictly a blessing bestowed by God, due to the inability of all man-kind to be righteous on their own merit.  Yet blessing Noah, would set him on a course that offered him freedom (like those on the Mayflower) from a land engulfed in corruption.  Noah’s boat-building and boarding obedience, involved callus ridicule from peers, and mountainous waves that would make even the strongest of pirates sea-sick.  

Though their stories span thousands of years apart from one another, both Noah and the Separatist Pilgrims had a few things in common. They each placed God above the desire of pleasing man.  Both were also willing to leave behind the land they once knew, because they trusted God in their journey, while having no way of knowing how ‘smooth sailing’ their trip would be.   Each party had also left their previous lands due to corruption of some kind that was prevalent in their nation.  Then following their journeys, both praised God for the provisions He made for them while they were out surviving the rough terrain of the seas.  But there is one sobering sad commonality they shared too; their obedience to the Lord would not be replicated by the generations that would later follow them.  

The Pilgrims had great hopes of settling in the New World where they would be able to maintain their English ways, while raising their children to honor God as their first priority.  They were able to set up homes that were similar to their old way of life, while free to read the Bible and grow in His word, without the harsh consequences of their former land. 

Then there was Noah, whose family had been spared from a disastrous flood through the boarding of a vessel.  His three sons and their wives had the awesome joy and responsibility of re-populating the earth with humans…people who would love the Lord as they had always been called to do so in the past, but had failed.  This family received the privileged responsibility of teaching and molding the new human race to honor the Lord, from that point on.   

Yet abandoning God and failing to walk under His authority would be what followed the generations on the new earth, as well as those who landed in the New World.  The undertaking of forming a new society that honored God would not be maintained.  Neither the generations that came from Noah, nor those descending from the Pilgrims would stay anchored in His truth, and so their honoring of God fell by the wayside. Did the generations become afraid of ‘rocking the boat’ or going against the current waves of their society, that they lost sight of what really mattered?  

With both sets of individuals from the ark, and the Mayflower, God provided reminders of how each generation was called to live in obedience to Him.  The ark illustrated to Noah’s descendants how serious God treats sin, and that we are all in need of being ‘washed’ from the costly price of sin, (Jesus) so we won’t drown in our own sinful behavior.  His promise of mercy following the flood was also made clear every time a person looked up in the sky and viewed a rainbow.

As for those who sailed on the Mayflower, their descendants would learn of God’s amazing provision by way of bringing them to dry land, and the bountiful help brought forth by the Indians that led to the first Thanksgiving.  Then later in the 1800’s a monument would be built that still remains today, echoing the reminder of how God calls us to live in this nation: a nation that once claimed to be under God.  The monument was erected so that the generations that followed would have no excuse in ever losing sight of this country having been built on the attitudes and standards of God’s Word.

Sadly, the generations that one day followed both of these groups of people, lost sight of their heritage, and what God had done in the lives of His people, which led them to do life apart from Him and His ways.  

Though both sides of these families’ descendents at some point lost their way, we as believers can be the ones to pick back up the torch and relight the lamp of truth that once burned out several hundred years ago from the generations before us.    

Before I discovered that the Pilgrims were my direct ancestors, I had longed for a powerful Christian heritage reflected in my family, which did not seem to exist.  I am so humbled and appreciative for the sacrifice my Mayflower family made in an effort to honor God, as well as my dear relative Noah.  While many of their descendants walked away from the Lord, we can live in the privilege that by God’s grace, we have been given the opportunity to set sail and find freedom from sin through boarding the only real lifeboat there is; Jesus Christ.  He saves us from the catastrophic flood waters of sin, takes us to higher ground, and reminds us that like the Pilgrims and Noah, we too, can set sail by example.

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