Hitting Pause

A sea of sailboat masts in Boot Key Harbor. Looking East from the deck of Born Again.

Or Captain Soapbox and the Marathon Meeting

If I had my way, we’d be halfway through the Caribbean by now. Maybe leading a bible study at a seaside restaurant in Puerto Rico, or sitting on a beach with my guitar in St. Thomas leading a few folks in songs of praise. My vision for what we’re doing out here, while it’s never been ultra-clear, has never changed either. Circumstances, however, have dictated a less direct route to that vision than I would have preferred.

At times like these, believing that God’s word is true is a great help. Because God promises in Romans 8 to work all things for our good if we are called according to His purpose, I can rest assured that our present circumstances are exactly what they are supposed to be. That this is the best place for Amy and I, even if it’s not my preference.

But while our circumstances are not what I would have chosen, they are still nothing short of a blessing. As most of the people I know are waking up to sub-zero temperatures this morning in Illinois, I am sitting shirtless in the cockpit of Born Again with my computer in my lap and Griffin napping beside me. It’s about 75 degrees already at 08:30 and is supposed to reach a high of 82 today. There is the faintest hint of an ocean breeze just beginning to stir, and the sun’s intensity is increasing as God eases the Keys into another beautiful day.

Other than the occasional sound of an outboard motor from someone taking their dinghy to shore, the loudest sound is the cry of one of the amazing sea birds soaring above. The pelicans effortlessly glide by the boat just a couple of inches above the water at amazing speed. Jelly fish dance by just under the surface every few minutes. Dolphins frolicking in the harbor have become so common that I don’t even run for the camera anymore. I just stand in awe and appreciate their splendor.

One of the varieties of jelly fish that we frequently see swimming by Born Again

Even while surrounded by such a spectacular natural environment, I can get in the dinghy and take a seven minute ride to the dock, where our dented, 15 year old mini-van awaits. A short drive on US 1 and I can be at West Marine, Home Depot, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Dollar Tree, or any number of restaurants or specialty stores in another 10 minutes.

A pump-out boat comes by once a week to empty our holding tanks. We can receive mail and packages at the marina office. We have access to a project room, laundry facilities, and shower rooms. Our boat is attached to a secure mooring ball in a well-protected harbor. And we have access to unlimited, clean, fresh water to fill our water tanks. For all of this, we pay the City of Marathon a little less than $400 a month.

There are within Boot Key Harbor approximately 400 boats. 216 are on the city owned mooring balls, and the rest are just anchored. There are big, expensive, new trawlers. There are small, dilapidated sailboats. And there are everything in between.

This is a very late model Nordhavn. You'd be very luck to get into one of these for under $700K.

This is a derelict sailboat that's lucky to still be afloat.
Born Again: Somewhere between a Nordhavn and derelict.

And while the assortment of vessels is impressive, the diversity of people is even greater. The harbor is probably lacking a bit of the international flavor it would have in a non-pandemic year, but the multiplicity of personalities, backgrounds, sailing experience levels, skill-sets, and financial statuses are staggering. And they’re all living in near perfect harmony with each other. The church could take a lesson from the community at Boot Key harbor.

We, the church, talk a lot about taking people where they’re at, loving one another, being welcoming. The truth is we fail at that quite frequently. Frankly, the folks here at Boot Key Harbor are doing it better. This is the most welcoming, non-judgmental, helpful community I have ever witnessed. There is a pay-it-forward mindset here unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ve reason to believe that it’s not just this harbor, but the cruising community as a whole worldwide!

If you’re a follower of Christ, I hope it bothers you that an extremely secular community is living out some of the commands of Jesus better than Christians are. I know it bothers me.

Maybe we’re too busy reading books on biblical leadership to just lead by example. Maybe we’re too busy making sure the lights and sound are just right to make the new couple feel welcome. Maybe we’re too busy sitting there, facing the front of the room, listening to someone tell us what the Bible is saying to just read it ourselves and do what it says. Maybe, just maybe, we have gotten distracted and very far off-track from what Jesus intended following Him to look like. Maybe we have made too much of a production out of not just our church services, but our Christianity as a whole. Meanwhile the cruisers are out here living out Mark 12:31 better than us Christians. They are, as a whole, “loving their neighbors as themselves” in spectacular fashion.

I’ll tell you something else: You know who I have not heard from in the five months since we left Monmouth? Members of the church where I served and attended for 7+ years. The people from the local church where I was leader of both the music and recovery ministries have not made one phone call, sent one email, or typed out a single text to enquire or encourage. I have called some of them, and they were pleased to hear from me, but that’s not the same is it?

You know who I have heard from? The sailors that we met during our two months in Canaveral! These people have called and texted as to our welfare. They wanted to know how things were going for us. Them, and the people who we’ve met here in Boot Key Harbor that have sailed on to other places. They still reach out.

Why do you suppose this is? Why is it that the ones who are supposed to be following the God of love - the God that is love – are falling behind a secular community in this regard? I’m sure there are many reasons, but I have a theory as to the primary reason: Busyness.

When you are working 40+ hours a week, and taking your kids to their various activities, and grocery shopping, and cleaning the house, and mowing the lawn, and cooking, and getting the car fixed, and getting a haircut, and don’t forget your bible reading, and small group, and the homework from small group, and family prayer, and Sunday morning service, and the pot luck afterwards…how in the world are you supposed to find the time or energy to think about, let alone call or write, those two idiots who sold all their crap, bought a boat and sailed away. Out of sight-out of mind. Life is too busy to worry about it if it’s not pressing on you. At first my feelings were hurt by the lack of contact, but then I had to get honest: If I was still there, living that insanely busy life, and someone else had left, would I have taken the time and made the effort to reach out? I doubt it.

It was two and a half years ago when it really began to bother me: the break-neck pace that life had taken on. Not just for me, but for everyone I knew. I especially noticed it when I bought my fishing boat. I would call 10 friends on a Saturday afternoon to invite them fishing, and one by one, every one of them would be busy. I could almost never find anyone to go fishing with. And this was at a time when I was extremely busy myself. Music to prepare for Sunday, lesson to prepare for recovery, side jobs, regular job, normal household and family obligations, and whatever miscellaneous tasks life threw my way. Were these people even busier than I was?

We should have time for our friends. Time for leisure activities. Time to catch our breath. We shouldn’t have to schedule out three weeks to go fishing with a buddy for an afternoon, but we do. And it’s wrong. It’s become the norm, but it’s wrong.

My conviction that we could not follow Jesus well with our lives packed so full of activity continued to grow. Ultimately, it played a large part in our decision to do what we are doing now. And having now tasted life at a slower pace, I am more positive than ever that a life of continual busyness is simply not pleasing to God.

Our society as a whole is insanely busy, and from what I’ve seen, Christians are the worst offenders. They do everything everyone else does, but then get sucked into doing a bunch of things “for God” on top of it. Often out of guilt. Often out of pride. I have done both.

Meanwhile, this secular cruising community, as a whole, is living an unhurried life. They have the time, energy, and inclination to connect, be helpful, and reach out to friends new and old. They’re lives are not full of stress and hurry, so they are kind and friendly. It makes a difference. It’s “attractive” like us Christians are always saying we want our faith to be.

I know I’m spouting generalities here. Not all sailors are stress free and kind. Not all Christians are too busy to love well. But these are the trends I have seen and what I have learned from them. I am still learning. I haven’t been able to entirely shake my tendency to prove my worth to God and Amy through accomplishments. I’m working on that. I’m still busier than I should be because I push myself to achieve out of habit. But I have slowed down a lot, and it has had a profound effect on my peace, contentment, and desire to connect with people. Really connect with people – not pencil them in for a 45 minute lunch that I arrive to late because I’ve overbooked myself again.

I have a new saying that I’ve been trying to adhere to these days: