As you perhaps settle down for a hefty Thanksgiving feast, preparing to afterwards sink comfortably into the folds of a sofa someplace to watch football, to travel across the countryside to enjoy visits with friends and/or family, or perhaps to venture from store to store to get ahead on your Christmas shopping, pause for a moment and let your imagination take you on a little trip instead.
Visualize for a moment that you are crammed into a dank, dark space, hardly larger than your living room, with one hundred and two other passengers. The curved wooden walls around you are partly screened by barrels and crates of food, tools, and various other supplies. By your elbow a pair of chickens are squawking loudly, and your ears catch the sounds of some dog whining and in a far off corner of the hold, someone sounds very sick.
The little ship, the belly of which you’ve been living in for nearly two months, is having a bad time of it. You can feel the ship rolling back and forth, tossed about by angry walls of water, as howling winds spin the tiny vessel about it in a maelstrom of fear. Then there is strange sound… a creaking, tearing, and then a loud pop. But the tempest still rages on mercilessly and you’re forced to continue to simply ride out the storm… literally. Then the winds seem quieter and the tiny ship doesn’t teeter as wildly. The teetering slows even further until it is nothing more than a gentle rocking. The hatch above opens and you can barely make out that it is the captain who struggles to climb down into the hold. There is no light to speak of, lanterns clearly being too dangerous to light in such a storm, so you can only hear the worried tone of the captain as he explains that the main mast was cracked in the storm. You don’t need to see his face to know that there is a great weight of anxiety upon him. With no mast, how can you go on? How can your little band do anything but drift about in the wide waters of the Atlantic? You can hear the captain quietly ask some of the men who lead your group to pray. He then climbs back up, forces open the hatch, and is gone.
You can hear your leaders, John Carver, William Bradford, and William Brewster. You can hear their whispered voices each, in turn, thank God for the safe journey thus far, and then an appeal to Him to reveal His glory and achieve His purposes for His people. Then the voices cease and a near silence follows. But William Brewster, a lay minister, suddenly speaks up excitedly. You can almost make out what he is saying to the other two men. Something about his printing press. You’re puzzled, wondering what on earth a printing press has to do with a broken mast, but then you hear someone climb up and throw open the hatch. A faint gray light illuminates the face of John Carver who quickly disappears onto the deck. He returns very soon, accompanied by the captain and another sailor. Leaving the hatch open this time, they all climb down and carefully step through the crowded hold, with a hundred sets of eyes fastened upon them. They make their way towards you until they stand by your side. Producing a heavy iron bar, the sailor begins to pry the lid off of a crate next to you. William Brewster steps up and shoves the lid aside. He begins to dig through the straw, pulling out various parts of the large printing press he had intended to set up and use at the Jamestown Colony in Virginia. Finally, he gives an exclamation of joy and produces a large iron screw. He holds it out triumphantly towards the captain who mutters something about hoping that the Pilgrim prayers had reached the ears of God. He takes the screw and hurries again to the top of the ship, followed by the sailor and the three Pilgrim leaders, Carver, Brewster, and Bradford.
You can hear the whisperings of others around you who are as puzzled and nervous as are you. Someone near you remarks that here is a strange turn of events. After all, the sailors had cruelly mocked Brewster’s insistence on bringing his printing press. They had said that it would be nearly as useless as the Bible the Pilgrims so dearly loved and greatly venerated. They had laughed at the idea and only grudgingly agreed to pack it into the ship’s hold. You remember well the surly glances they threw at Brewster as they labored to bring it on the ship in the harbor of Southampton, England.
As you sit and wait, the sound of sailors shouting instructions to each other filters down to your ears. Then there is a long and painful pause. And then there is a joyful shout. Carver, Bradford, and
Brewster climb excitedly back down to you and your companions. They share that the part that they had taken from the printing press was exactly what was needed to fix the support beams that hold the main mast upright. The mast is restored and the sails are unfurled. The wind is moving and you are nearing the end of your destination.
Now… come back to the present. I’ve not met many people who’ve heard the account of Brewster’s printing press and it being the means by which God saves the Mayflower’s mast (and hence, the Pilgrims), but it is an incredible example of God’s faithfulness to a people who had forsaken all to follow Him.
“I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 108:3-5 ESV).
Maybe you’re not settling comfortably into your couch this Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe you do not have family and friends with whom you can spend a little time. And perhaps zipping from store to store for you looks like nothing more than plain and simple “window shopping” because your bank account is defunct.
Fortunately, God has a plan for your life that is a whole lot bigger than human dreams and ambitions. He has a dream for you that, as you seek to walk closely with Him, will keep your feet where they need to be, your hands doing what they need to be doing, and your voice saying and singing what needs to be said and sung. Where are you in your walk with Him these days? Are you earnestly seeking Him with all your heart? If you are, then you can count on His power and love to uphold you during difficult times. And if you trust Him wholeheartedly, even trivial things will take on a huge new dimension, and God will work “behind the scenes” to help you do His will. The bottom line, however, is that God is in control and that He has both the power and the desire to help His people. Therefore, no matter what may be going on in your life right now, trust His ability to bless you. Obey His leading in your life and the impressions that He makes on your heart. Above all, learn His Word and be able to personally take ownership of what He’s showing you as you seek to obey Him.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com.” Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)