WHO’S THE CAPTAIN OF YOUR SHIP?

Ullstrom, J.; Ship in Stormy Sea
Source

A MEANINGFUL LIFE

When I graduated from university, I was as optimistic and hopeful as anyone could be about what the future had in store. The world was my oyster and I felt I could do anything, be anyone and nothing was going to stand in my way.

That was until I met unemployment.

Having nothing to do and being broke really does a number on one’s sense of identity and worth. You spend a lot of time theorizing on why you don’t have a job. Is it because of a struggling job market, is it because you don’t know people in high places, is it because you studied the wrong thing? You seriously begin to consider whether being a matatu tout is all thaaat bad. Aren’t they just people? And at the end of it all, don’t they say a job is a job is a job?

But I could hardly ever shake the feeling that there was something in particular that I was meant to do. I knew it deep in me that I just didn’t want to make money to pay the bills so that I would be able to make more money and pay more bills and do that forever until I die. There had to be more to work than being a slave to my paycheck and my pecuniary obligations.

Even at the onset of my career, before I had a single job, I was haunted by the possibility of living a life of no impact. I dreaded the idea that I could be born, grow up, learn some skills, make money, run around for a couple of decades, then die and the world kept spinning and no one takes note that I ever existed. I wanted my life to have significance. Not even fame or fortune or glory, but for there to have been a point to my stepping on to this earth.

So I set out to identify what cause or vocation I could apply myself to. So that I wouldn’t end up like those fossilic, wrinkled up senior citizens who regret that they devoted their lives to a job or a career or seeking people’s approval and ended up neglecting the pursuit of what would have brought them true happiness at the sunset of their lives.

PURPOSE

I recollect reading a quote by famed 20th Century mathematician, philosopher, Nobel Laureate and outspoken atheist Bertrand Russell that went something like this:

Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.

If that wasn’t depressing enough for you, here’s an elaboration of the thought above by the same writer:

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

 

Phew…I wouldn’t have wanted to be that guy’s kid. His outlook on life was very bleak and hopeless. He had considered life without God, got on that rabbit trail and followed it all the way to its logical (and correct) conclusion – that life had no meaning outside God.

“That’s not true!” you might object. You may say, “Well, I find fulfillment in my work, in my family, in helping out homeless people and orphaned children, I take care of the environment and I’m a member of my local Rotary Club.” And to that, I say “Kudos!” Well done for having made all those kindhearted and meaningful contributions to society. But tell me this, do you suppose that you seeking self-righteousness and fulfillment in the things you do will answer any of humanity’s greatest yearnings? Will your subjective attempts at beating the futility of existence guide everybody on how to live? Does your self-proclaimed altruism tell us why man exists, or where life came from? Does it answer the question of where our consciousness derives, or why we should be good…or bad (or if morality even exists?) At best, your alleged selflessness is an attempt to numb you to the fact that none of what anybody does (outside of God) matters in the grand scheme of things.

Even atheists know that unless we begin from acknowledging that purpose can only derive from God, life has no meaning. The best philosophy that the secular world has offered us is that ‘life is what you make it’. That you are the captain of your destiny, and that you determine your happiness.

Tell me this – if that were so, then why don’t people just choose happiness and stay happy all their lives? If we were truly in control of our lives and we are the ones who called the shots on our purposes, earth would be a utopian paradise. Humans would have chosen world peace, mental wellbeing, meaningful relationships, no poverty, and many other good things. But the fact that the world is a perpetual mess, with only little glimmers of hope here and there, tell us that woefully the answers do not lie within us.

 

I wasn’t going to find the answer to life’s purpose in me. If purpose existed, God would be the one to reveal it.

 

A RUDDERLESS SHIP

Simply knowing that the answer to “What’s the point?” was found in God was only half the solution. I would have to find that out from God. And if you’re anything like me, you know that’s easier said than done.

As far as I can remember, I’ve lived a very ‘hit-or-miss’ kind of life when it comes to discerning God’s will for my life. In fact, I didn’t have a formula for seeking God’s face. At times it felt very much like wishful thinking, then other times like I was just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. Prayer felt less like communion with my Creator and more like seeking approval for the things I had already decided I wanted.

Looking around me was no inspiration either. I saw many people who claimed to know God who lived their lives pretty much like atheists. They believed (like me in a way) that their life’s mission was to do what they wanted then tell God about it. If they even told Him, that is. So most of these nominal Christians I knew were basically no different than those people who didn’t know God at all. They all just captained the vessels of their life whichever way they saw fit, and when they remembered, they yelled out at God as they passed by Him “Oh, Hi God! This is the direction I’m going with my life! I obviously am just figuring it out as I go, and I don’t quite need your input on this because it feels right, plus it’s what everyone else is doing. I just thought I should tell you as a formality and to reduce my guilt, and also so that when things go wrong I can blame you and say you didn’t stop me. Well okay God, Amen!”

The other people who I saw, were those who basically were at a loss as to what to do with their lives. They also reminded me of myself in those times I was going through life only because the days were passing by. I didn’t know where I was going, what I wanted or even where I was in the first place. My friend Pastor Christian Lwanda puts it this way, “You know how you can coast with a car on the highway, where you engage neutral gear and just cruise along happily with no effort on your part? Coasting is really fun, but you can only coast downhill.”

Going through life just hoping something works out, with no vision for your life, is like a ship on the ocean with no rudder – a recipe for a wreck. You will wreck your life, and spend the time before the wreck unsettled, unhappy, unsure and unfulfilled. Your best bet? Be intentional, figure out what you want for your life, and live every day incrementally towards that goal.

 

BEING INTENTIONAL

The flipside to living an unguided life, is to live an intentional life. My other good friend Pastor Samuel Ngugi shared this nugget of wisdom with me when we bumped into each other grocery shopping, “The value of a man is judged by the cause they give their heart to and the cost they are willing to pay for it.” (I know, right? I have really smart friends). I’d gone for tomatoes and left with wisdom.

The reason people may sometimes be averse to intentionality in their lives is that it comes at a cost. We have to choose amongst many options to pursue one choice. To disregard all the potential possibilities and live a particular way. We normally would rather have our cake and eat it – to live life without committing to a purpose, and desire still to see a positive outcome all the same.

***

Back to that time in my life I had begun to share about. I soon realized that if I wanted my life to be meaningful and of significance, even eternal significance, then I had to seek God’s will about my life. I realized that I had to take control of my life and make sure that it was heading in the direction God desired for me.

But the frustrating thing was this – God revealed to me through His Word that his participation in the trajectory of my life wouldn’t be advisory. He wasn’t going to stand in the sidelines and cheer me on as I made my way through life. He wanted to be in control of my whole life. And I was to give it up willingly!

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:25

He was essentially saying to me, “Hi son, you want to live your life according to the purposes I have for you, right? You want your life to be meaningful, and not just a waste of time?”

And I went excitedly, “Uh huh, uh huh!”

“And you trust me?” he went on.

“Yeah! Of course I do, how could you even ask that?” I retorted in faux shock.

“Then let me take over your life. Give up control, I’ll steer your ship.”

“Umm, yeah about that…”

 

PEACE AMIDST CHAOS, A CHAOTIC PEACE

That is typically how my life had always played out. But this time, I decided to take a risk. Why not just give up control and see if God knew how to ‘life’ better than I did.

T’was the best decision of my life, by far.

Yielding myself to His direction meant that I needed more reserves of faith than I had – which He happily provided. Living and walking in faith meant that I couldn’t see beyond the step I was on in this cosmic staircase – but that didn’t matter, He could see the whole way. Giving up control meant my life now moved at God’s pace, and in His own way, and all I had to do was to stop figuring everything out and just be still, and know He was God, and in control. For that, He’s given me inexplicable peace in situations that demanded and readily provided me with panic.

As a result of giving him the steering wheel of my ship, God has led me to opportunities I would never have had and people I would never have met had I tried to figure things out by myself. He has given me strength for each day as I needed it and assured me that He has good plans for me. Better plans for me beyond anything I could ever have imagined or come up with, even if I was given an eternity to do so.

It hasn’t always been easy, especially since when the waves seem to be crashing in on me, I either panic and want someone, anyone (except God) to reassure me and take control; or I attempt to wrestle the steering wheel back from Him. But He is very patient and doesn’t let me get consumed by momentary fears.

My prayer for you dear friend as you read this, is to give up control. Give up trying. You’ve never lived before, so how would you know how to? Give God your life, through Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit will guide you and give you power to do much much more than simply make a career decision.

He will give you hope for every situation. He will give your life meaning.

He will give you eternity, He will give you himself.

Shalom.

3 thoughts on “WHO’S THE CAPTAIN OF YOUR SHIP?

    1. Asante sana Zack🙏

      I’m happy you enjoyed the post

      I welcome all kinds of feedback including what you’d want me to improve on or even write about.

      Be blessed bro

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s