It Takes a Storm!


Joseph Conrad is one of my favorite authors —I've not read a novel of his yet that I didn't like. But one of them—Typhoonis truly unforgettable. 

It is more about a sea captain than it is about a typhoon. Oh, the typhoon is there all right: it happens with a vengeance as a matter of fact, but Capt. MacWhirr soon becomes the central theme of the story. 

In the early chapters, when the weather is fine and the China Sea is smooth as glass and the tough little steamer—the Nan Shan—is sailing cheerfully along, Capt. MacWhirr is just a nobody. In fact, all the sailors are talking about how boring and non-descript he is. 

He is very unimpressive. He hardly ever speaks; barely hears you when you speak; never gets riled up; never gets excited; never does anything interesting or dramatic. 

Some of the sailors, missing the colorful commanders of their past, actually express the wish that this captain would be more like them. He is just so hopelessly ordinary! 


Until the storm hits, that is. 

It is the worst typhoon ever to hit the Taiwan Strait, and the little steamer is right smack in the middle of it. The storm just tears into the ship! Hellish winds and huge waves shred the vessel, ripping fixtures off the tower and equipment from the decks and sending all of it flying out into the sea. 

The poor crew is thrown all over the place. 

And the passengers—200 ku-li workers on their way home from a railroad job—are hiding in the lower holds, scared out of their wits, hoping they will not die! No one thinks they will make it out alive.

Except for the master; the master of the Nan-Shan! While the storm rages on, there he is: standing at the helm, puffing at his pipe, checking his bearings; calmly making himself heard over the roar of 130 mile-per-hour winds, with not a trace of panic in his demeanor! 

In one great scene, while these massive waves are sweeping over the decks, his First Mate—Jukes—keeps making reports about the damage; as if that will help; as if something could be done about it:  

"We are losing a lifeboat on the aferdeck Captain!" he shouts it right into MacWhirr's ear.

Faintly, as if it were coming from a hundred miles away, even though it's only inches, Jukes hears the reply: "All right." 

Jukes keeps looking back toward the stern as another destructive wave slams into the ship. "The boats, I say! They're goin' over! There are two gone now, Captain!"  He waits for some sudden response; some nervous command, some sign of concern in the Captain's voice. 

But it doesn't come. "Can't be helped," is all he hears with another puff of the pipe. 

Finally, Jukes just stands there, off to the side in a corner of the bridge, watching in awe! This man is amazing; steady as a rock, hand on the helm, steering her over the "mountains" of thirty-foot seas! 

Days later, after the storm has passed, when the ship comes limping into the harbor, looking as though it had been through a war, every man on board agrees: Captain MacWhirr is the best there is! And—no!—there is nothing "ordinary" about him! 

It just took a Typhoon to make them all see it! 

Don't you love it!

You know? Sometimes it takes a storm to get us to see that our Master is the best there is. When Jesus Christ is at the helm, you cannot be in a safer place! Your Savior is extraordinary, there is nothing "ordinary" about Him. 

By the way, isn't this reason enough not to go the 'super-church' route dear ones: with all the pressure to make the church itself look "extraordinary"? Do we really need light-shows and fog machines and chrome-plated cathedrals when we have this wonderful Master at the helm? I don't know how you feel about it, but Jesus is the only "extraordinary" I want people to see!

The Disciples discovered how extraordinary He was. And they did it in the midst of a storm too, remember? "Who is this man?" they asked each other. "That even the wind and the waves obey Him?"  Mk 4:41

It took a storm for them to see it. 

You know what I think? The only people who truly know Jesus—who He is and how He commands—are those who have traveled with Him through a storm. 

In fact, I am convinced that that is the main reason why Christians go through storms in life. Have you thought about that, dear storm-tossed one? You're going to know Jesus like never before! 

See you Sunday!                             RAS

Me...Under the Lamb and Other Things
Our Children...Under Siege