A fleet of paper ships, torn and tattered. This is the image that comes to mind when I think about our local body of believers. Some may be thin as newspapers and others as thick as corrugated cardboard, but even the strongest of us are torn and limited as compared to the wild waters of life.
Months of planning and preparation for our church’s bi-annual women’s retreat have finally culminated and crested. The Lord was so gracious to bring together over one hundred of the precious women of our flock for two days of rich teaching and fellowship. The decorations were stunning, the food was rich, and the teaching was sound. Yet, it is the weakness of our women that leaves me with tears in my eyes today as I process and celebrate.
In a world obsessed with empowerment, it sounds almost criminal to celebrate our weakness, so please allow me to explain.
It takes great strength to bear your brokenness before people, especially other women. And while the church is supposed to be a hospital for the sick to heal and become whole, she can all-too-often look like a social club of shiny people. Not this weekend.
This weekend, I watched some of the most talented and lettered women I know (PhD, DMD, and lots of other combinations) show the tatters and tears in their ships. I watched them receive each other and offer tears and the tape of biblical truth to reinforce breaking places. I saw their eyes tear up as a sister shared about God’s faithfulness to her young family as they have been weathering the terrible nor’easter called childhood cancer and all the sister storms that follow in its path.
I heard sighs of relief and compassion as another sister shared honestly about the cumulative effect of the small storms of miscommunication in marriage. She put their tattered ship honestly on display that other torn ships could admit their own hidden storms. But she also showed them the trusted anchor of gospel truth that carried she and her husband through the worst of the storm (Hebrews 6:19).
I sat beside yet another sister who showed us the torn ship of her long season of singleness, inviting other paper ships into the secret of contentment that is found in the person of Christ who is the Commander of our paper fleet (Philippians 4:11-13).
My mentor shared, among other things, the privilege of women getting to choose the weaker position of submission to their own husbands in order to model our Christ. He, though being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or utilized, but made himself positionally weaker by submitting to Father as an obedient Son to reclaim our fleet (Philippians 2:1-11).
As we trust in His goodness and provision, we are enabled the strength to follow after Him, entrusting our souls to a faithful Creator even in the midst of persecution or pain (1 Peter 2: 23-24 & 1 Peter 4:19)
I was reminded of a portion of John Donne’s beautiful poem A Hymn to Christ, at the Author’s Last Going into Germany.
In what torn ship so ever I embark,
That ship shall be my emblem of Thy ark;
What sea soever swallow me, that flood
Shall be to me an emblem of thy blood.
Though Thou with clouds of anger disguise
Thy face, yet through the mask I know those eyes,
Which, though they turn away sometimes,
They never will despise.
No matter how torn our ships, we know the One who will bring His fleet home to His harbor in the New Heavens & the New Earth.
For Christ, the unsinkable ship, became a paper ship and allowed the Father to steer Him directly into the storm of all storms where He was torn on the cross that should have been ours. He arose, the firstborn from the dead. He ascended to the right hand of His Father, where He continues to captain the seemingly struggling paper fleet that is His church.
I am so proud to be a part of this paper fleet; in her weakness, she points to the strength and reliability of the Words of her Captain.