Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tidal Island

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”   Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36

In the R.L. Stevenson novel Kidnapped, the protagonist and narrator is a youth of about 17 or 18 named David Balfour.  He is the rightful heir of an estate called Shaws but is betrayed into captivity by his deceitful uncle.  Imprisoned on a ship headed for the American colonies, David is to be sold into indentured servitude in the Carolinas.  As the result of some weather-related delays, accidents, and the loss of the ship’s first officer and navigator in a fight, the ship is wrecked upon a rock in the Hebrides near the island of Mull, also known as Ross.  David, who cannot swim -- being, as he says “inland bred” from the Scottish lowlands, goes overboard to certain death except for being able to grab a portion of the broken vessel’s yardarm.  With this aid, he reaches shore on a rocky, barren tidal islet called Earraid. 

Earraid is separated from the inhabited parts of Mull by what appears to David to be an impassable strait of the sea.  Being unable to swim and having lost his flotation device, he remains stranded for four days without shelter, fire, or food, apart from raw shell fish.  He can see the roofs of a town and smoke rising from houses, but he is isolated and increasingly hopeless.  He is seen by some men in a boat.  They react to his plight by laughing, which he cannot understand.  Finally, they return with another man who knows some English – these are mostly Gaelic speakers.   They bring the boat close enough that David makes out the word, “Tide.”  His mind is opened, he runs to the strait, and, with the tide out, he crosses with no trouble onto the main island.  He concludes that his lack of understanding and reasoning nearly killed him:  I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and I believe they both get paid in the end; but the fools first.

Truth is always and everywhere the cure for bondage.  Whether we are fooled by others or fool ourselves, illusions are the chains that bind us and the whips that drive and torment us.  While we live, if we know the secret, we may be free, and, so knowing, we know as well, we live always. 

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

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