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Strength through the storms

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When you live on or near the Gulf Coast, hurricanes are a fact of life. Despite advances in technology, no one can definitively predict when and where a storm will reach landfall. Neither can we predict the ultimate devastation the forces of nature will inflict. With each named storm, residents consider the warnings and advice of the meteorological experts and then make an educated decision to do one of two things: seek shelter further inland or shelter in place. Given enough advance warning and time, we can always get far enough inland to escape the effects of a hurricane.

But what of those people who live on remote islands in the middle of the ocean?

I have heard of one such island in the South Pacific–a tiny yet self sufficient community of fishermen. No one really knows how long the island has been there. The inhabitants have no formal education to speak of, and their history is passed on verbally by the island storytellers from one generation to the next.

One such story involves another island. A neighboring island which they once called home. This island had a very special feature—a naturally occurring harbor surrounded almost entirely by a strong rock wall formation with only a small passageway by which boats could pass from the open ocean. Whenever the seas and winds would rage, everyone knew to get to the shelter of this harbor until the storms had passed. For untold years the harbor protected boats and residents from even the deadliest of storms.

The people were grateful for this safe harbor. And when the rock walls on either side of the entry point began to show wear, some of the islanders wanted to repair the damage done from the storms and the countless ships which entered seeking safe haven.

But many more did not. Surely, they reasoned, a fortress that has sheltered generations of fishermen would continue to remain strong. Others were privately concerned about the damage years of wear had inflicted, but chose to do nothing—hoping that the harbor would remain strong for at least as long as they needed a safe refuge from mother nature’s fury.

Ultimately, apathy and self-interest won out, and no effort was made to repair the stone fortress. The harbor continued to provide safety for the islanders. But years of neglect began to take its toll on the harbor. Though not visible with the naked eye, cracks began to form within the center of the rock formation. While outwardly the harbor seemed as strong as ever, internally its strength was diminishing with each passing day.

So when a relatively weak tropical depression made its way to the tiny island, everyone was shocked when the rock walls surrounding them began to crumble. The wall began sliding into the water at the innermost part of the harbor—working around towards the tiny inlet where so many ships had entered seeking refuge. The destruction was slow, giving all the islanders ample time to board their boats and escape into the open ocean.

Just as the last boat escaped through the inlet, the walls on either side sank into the ocean.

This was the safe harbor’s final act of sacrifice to the people she cared for and protected but who chose not to care for and protect her in kind.

A beautiful sacrifice, and yet such an unnecessary one.

This post is part of the blog carnival on Strength, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

Or-fay y-may iend-fray Erri-Shay

when the darkness fills my senses
when my blindness keeps me from your touch
Jesus come
when my burdens keep me doubting
when my memories take the place of you
Jesus come

and I’ll follow you there
to the place where we meet
and I’ll lay down my pride
as you search me again
your unfailing love
your unfailing love
your unfailing love
over me again…