“The sail was patched with flour sacks, and furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.”-Ernest Hemingway
In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway begins with this description of old Santiago’s sail – it’s beaten and weathered and old and used up. Just like the man, himself. On the surface, it’s easy to see the signs of defeat.
But look deeper and you can see determination greater than the defeat. Every patch and wrinkle and scar points to something more than defeat. They point to tenacity and resilience. They point to a long-suffering mind, set on doing just what he was made for. Born to be a fisherman, Santiago launched out day after day after day in the pursuit of the fish.
Our world is looking a bit worn these days. Our society is revealing its brokenness in ways we haven’t often experienced before. On the surface, the signs of defeat are evident: the selfish hoarding, the accusations and mistrust, the shoving away of our fellow man in just about every possible way… We are broken.
But look deeper and you can see determination greater than the defeat. We wear the scars of our sin, yes. All creation groans as the result of our choosing of death over union with Life, even as it also cries out His glory with every sunrise and hidden valley and sack lunch given away. We wear the scars, but those scars can remind us the scars of another – those worn by one who did nothing to earn them, who bore their pain and shame on our behalf.
In Jesus’ final week, the signs of defeat were easy to see – a fickle crowd turned in just days from shouts of praise to calls for death, a family of friends reduced to a hiding gang of misfits unsure of what to do next after the betrayal from one of their own, a final meal, a cross, a tomb… Surely the defeat is now absolute.
But look deeper and you can see determination greater than the defeat. Every step brought him closer to doing just what he had come for. Born to rescue, Jesus launched out into Jerusalem one last time. He set his gaze on his Father and ran a stake through the heart of death itself to open the way for every sin scarred one of us to come home.
Whatever defeats you are feeling and seeing today, keep looking deeper. Determine to gaze deeper into the heart of our Father and be just what He’s made you to be. These defeats are not final. These wounds will be healed. Because of Jesus, even death itself is only a way marker on our journey home.