This message was preached at Woodvale Baptist Church on Sunday the 24th of December 2017.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis describes the ship sailing into an unearthly, inky blackness and rescuing a sailor who had been lost in the darkness for years. Taking the man onboard, the crew begins to fear that they too, will be unable to find their way out.
Then Lucy breathes a prayer to Aslan that leads to this:
“Look!” cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.
Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
In a few moments the darkness turned into a greyness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of the ship herself astonished them: they had half expected to find that the darkness would cling to the white and the green and the gold in the form of some grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.
There are times when our lives are filled with personal darkness.
It may be the darkness of a marriage breakup. It could be the darkness of depression or an unexpected diagnosis that has left you feeling as if you are groping around blindly, looking for hope and finding none.
Perhaps you are struggling with your personal failures.
Or it could be that feeling that has dogged you for years, that sense that no matter how hard you try, you just never quite measure up – “I will never be good enough” you conclude.
And our personal world of darkness often feels particularly pronounced at Christmas time.
“Everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves. If only I could too !”
Centuries ago Isaiah made a wonderful promise concerning what God would do about our personal darkness:
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever… there will be a time in the future when…the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
He described what God did on that first Christmas – He sent His Son Jesus to shine the light of His love and grace into the world’s – and our – darkness.
No matter how dark your world is right now, God wants you to know how much He loves you. So why not open the door of your heart and let the light of His love shine in?
Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Aesop’s fable concerns a tortoise who was fed up with being ridiculed for his slowness by a hare and challenged him to a race!
Convinced he would win easily, the hare took time out for a nap halfway through but awoke with a start to discover the tortoise had both passed him and crossed the finish line first.
At first glance, before the race is run, it is obvious that the hare has a distinct advantage over the tortoise – it would be a brave person to bet against the hare!
As the hare’s coach what advice would you give him pre-race?
“It’s in the bag!” or “Win, but don’t overdo it. Save your energy for the bigger race.”
Perhaps you might be more circumspect and advise him, “Don’t underestimate this guy, this a long race!”
What advice would you give the tortoise?
“I admire your courage, but you have way too much baggage holding you down, hindering you from winning this race.”
But who really had the most baggage?
He was lazy and arrogant. He had poor follow through and lacked stickability.
The tortoise’s baggage was obvious but it also brought out his best. It produced endurance, tenacity, perseverance and courage.
And I don’t think losing would have bothered him. His goal was to finish the race!
The tortoise recognized and dealt with his baggage and he kept moving forward.
The same principle operates in marriage as a couple grows in this oneness.
If a couple is to grow closer over the years then it means that they both will have developed ways of identifying their personal baggage and dealing with it.
Every one of us comes to marriage with “baggage”, but so many are unaware of it.
And we quickly discover that living under the same roof with another person creates all sorts of issues and conflicts!
However, rather than deal with our baggage we often retreat into blaming the other person and demanding that they “sort themselves out!”
Of course, there is truth to that. We all carry personal baggage and need to work it through in order to become whole people.
But unawareness of or refusal to acknowledge our own baggage, makes us extremely unsafe and heading for personal and relational disaster.
I can remember when recognizing and dealing with some of my own baggage became deeply personal for me.
I had a bad habit of reading too much into comments made by others to me, perceiving them as personal criticisms of me or my performance.
This was particularly pronounced in my relationship with Karen. She might make an observation about something I had done or said and if it did not agree completely with how I saw it then I would take it personally and feel quite wounded.
But when I began to recognize and own my behavior, I also began to identify the faulty thinking process that was at the root of it all.
I would hear the comment, interpret it incorrectly (instead of clarifying what was said), which then led to a whole range of negative thoughts and responses.
Things began to change when I deliberately grabbed the negative thought early in this negative cycle and replaced it with positive and truthful statements.
As I went through this process of dealing with some of my baggage, we grew closer as a couple; we grew in our oneness.
I wish I could say that I have perfected this but I can’t. But I can say that my marriage is richer because I am married to a woman who is committed to journeying with me because she knows that I want to be a better man.
And I am just as committed to her as she deals with her own baggage.
So what are you? A tortoise or hare?