I just returned from a three month job experience in Alaska, in the fishing industry. Those who know this business seldom cross paths with those who write and comment on theology. So it was with incredible naivetee that I entered into the job I found myself in this summer as a chef on a processing boat.
I am in no way a pinnacle of Christian virtue. I state that catagorically so that this episode will have its intended effect. I struggle every single day to make more good decisions than bad decisions. By the grace of God, I am not a serial killer. Having said that, I found myself in a closed environment for 86 days with a decidedly worldly and mostly unsaved crew. To say that they were salty would be an understatement. I also realize that my life as a beleiver has insulated me from exposure to that life...a life that was not so different from my own 20 years ago.
Soon after my arrival on board, I experienced a different kind of insulation.
The crowded small, almost claustrophobic quarters, neccesitated me taking my Bible and other devotionals into the common area of the galley, to read, write and meditate in relative comfort. No one disturbed me and it seemed fine at first. Soon, however, I saw a pattern in the way I was 'not disturbed'. I was noticed and people would sit at least 3 to 4 seats away in the small 40 seat galley. In my periphory I could see them watching. There was a look of trepidation, unease and yes...holy fear. As if these books I was reading, and these things I was writing were an actual point of such awe and mystery that a safe distance was kept. Soon after this revelation, I noted that most of the salty folk were working hard to not belch out colorful metaphors and cuss with their usual vigor in my presence.
The epiphony was simple and yet large for me. The Word of God was written on their hearts. I would wager that most of those people had never read the Word. But in their spirit, they knew what it said. Submit, obey, repent.... These fundamental concepts pricked their flesh even from the safe distance of my personal Bible devotion time.
This strange reaction later morphed into the erroneous idea that I had some sort of higher knowledge. Often, they would venture closer to me and, like the pilgrim climbing a mountain to speak to a sage, inquire about my devotions. Before I left for Alaska, I agreed with the Lord not to go with the intent to prostelytize the crew. But I did feel free to answer inquiries that were genuine and I was blessed with many. Often though, this was perverted into the idea that I was smarter than most in all facets of life and like Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof", was being asked questions that would 'cross a Rabbi's eyes'.
It was sweet of God to show me that there really is no innocence and certainly no ignorance. In our deepest places, we know that we know, that righteousness and holiness are in conflict with both our flesh and the culture of the world. My brief incursion into worldly domains was an epiphonous moment for me. One that continues to expand my grace for the nonbeliever and drive me to know (yadda) Him and His ways more and more.