I love the novel, Moby Dick. The fateful journey of captain Ahab and crew brings a kind of telescopic context to life. For Ahab, a near fatal first pass at the whale had him tasting brine mixed with his own blood. That defeat crept into his soul, and retribution became an obsession. The novel wends it’s way through turbulent Atlantic squalls, and calm southern seas, never resting long before Ahab’s dis-ease resurfaces, driving the Pequod’s crew like a stage coach before frothy fillies. Each crash of waves upon the bow, and every irrational decision by him, like a maddening crack of the whip, a rising surge of passion that brings the crew closer to their end.
Let me tell you why I identify so closely with a mad man. I like Ahab’s single focus, and his long nights of plotting the right course to intersect the whale. I love how he reminds his men over and over again of their mission, and gives reward for the first to spot the prize. Most of all, I love how his severed leg reminds him every moment of the unsuccessful first try at Moby Dick’s capture, and the lessons from his failure, he vowed he would not repeat.
How about you? Do you have a great aim in life, a single driving motivation? I’ll tell you mine; it is to get as close to God as Ahab did to Moby Dick. To look Him in the eyes, and know I have seen a glimpse of Him, whom I will spend eternity adoring. Without an obsession like this, there is a real possibility I will pass through life, settling for fair winds, and majestic sunsets, yet never get close enough for God to transform me into a fearless captain in my own right. For to get close to God means a man will come away altered.
How do we set the coordinates of our maps and calculations, so that our rendezvous with the God of glory is a matter of when, never if? How do we break from self-limitations, fears, or even cultural norms? How do we use obsession to our advantage?
To start, God uses time tested disciplines and devotion in our pursuit to connect with Him. True, we must be on a craft sound enough, and with a crew purposed enough to give getting close to the whale a fighting chance. We must have a resolute heart that will not flounder with the first tropical storm that pushes us off course. All these are givens, yet if we stop there, we will still miss out. It must begin and end with the Captain. Not a tragic Ahab figure, but the Captain of our souls, Jesus Christ. He is the means by which we draw near. The genius of God is that no one gets to Him alone.
If for a moment I think I can find and capture God on any level, then pride has already set me against Him. When God has stripped me of all my notions of His deity, and I humble myself, the residue what remains will be awe. And when awe for my Captain marks my life, a great process of purity has entered in. I will decrease, and God increase wholly.
The secret to the crew’s focus was the awe they held for their captain. Somewhere deep inside, each man knew he was a mate on a doomed voyage. Does that sound too tragic, too negative? Yet, consider this. The sailors of the Pequod understood that even if by good chance they returned home to loved ones, they would never be the same. Not with a captain so bent on getting close enough to such a dangerous whale that it’s power would be unleashed in a most personal way.
Jesus Christ wants us to get so close to God, that it gets very personal indeed. It’s why I love the image of the whale, a visual for what lies at the depths of my deepest motivation. I too stand in awe of the Captain of my salvation. He has already survived the first brutal brush with God, and it crushed Him, ‘for our sakes He was bruised, and the inequity of us all fell upon Him.’ Now through open seas, I glide with my Captain at the helm. I have surrendered my rights to wherever the future takes me, and however the future looks, whether storm tossed, or facing a murderous white whale. The passion of my Captain holds me in awe, the best and most enduring strength God can extend. He will bring me to the ‘Whale,’ yet in doing so it will undo me, because the Rare White Leviathan has never been touched without human transformation in His wake. God is the unconquerable, no-man-can-capture, and transcendent Spirit. The sweet brokenness of our pursuit will mark us with a sign of His ownership. It will build passion to pursue Him, and become the clearest of charts, pointing us to eternal life, which cannot be shattered, preserved and reserved for us in heaven, where God waits our journey’s end.