On 1 October 1973 I was issued with my Seaman’s Discharge Book having officially joined the Merchant Navy as a deck cadet. After a two-week induction course at South Shields Marine School I found myself travelling to Gothenburg in Sweden to join my first ship. But that’s another story.
When interviewed for the Merchant Navy I was asked about ambition. To this day I recall the surprise on the cadet training manager’s face when I told him I wanted to be a captain. Apparently most people he interviewed could only see as far as the first rung of the promotion ladder.
I got as far as second officer, two rungs away from captain, although I did once sign on as chief officer for a one-week voyage to deliver a small ship from East Germany to Amsterdam. That too is another story – one yet to be told!
Why did I make the move ashore and not achieve my ambition of sailing as a ship’s captain? The answer is simple. I fell in love with the lady I married in 1979, and I am still very much in love with Marilyn. Although circumstances have meant making a few more trips to sea since first coming ashore, I haven’t signed onto a ship since 1993. I love the sea, and I loved being at sea, but how could the sea ever replace what I feel for my wife?
Sometimes when I look and I see only green,
I cast my mind back to the ocean’s blue sheen;
To distant horizons, foreign shores where I’ve been.
And I know that this land is the best I have seen.
But how can you tie down a wandering soul?
And stand him on land with no pitch and no roll.
Confining his travels to dreams born of day.
And hope he’ll grow out of his seafaring way.
One thing that beats stronger than the call of the sea,
Is the heart of a woman, and a woman should be,
Worth infinitely more than the ocean’s strange life.
So I gave up the sea for the love of my wife.
What I gave up in terms of a career I enjoyed and the pleasure of being on the ocean was nothing compared to what God gave up for me. The love that swells in my heart for my wife, and for other members of my family, is so small it cannot be seen when compared with the love that God has for all of His children. Why is it that we humans constantly cast our thoughts to distant horizons and seek temporary pleasures when what we need more than anything is right in front of our eyes? God lives and breathes through His creation. His beauty shines brightly at us and yet so often we choose to look away. Perhaps the problem is that in responding to His love we know that we need to walk away from a lesser love and surrender completely to Him? It is awesome to love and to know the love of another human being. How much more awesome it is to know the love of God.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16 NLT)