One of my all-time favorite books is The Life God Blesses, by Gordon MacDonald. The book begins with a parable about sailboats and builders of sailboats and the importance of paying attention to the part of the boat that sits beneath the waterline. Beneath the waterline symbolizes the place where no one sees, the internal places, the character or lack thereof, the hidden habits, hopes, fears. That which is beneath the waterline can be good or bad; it is usually some combination of the two.
We live in a culture that gives little value to what is beneath the waterline. Perception, image, and appearance are what matters. Different people value different images, but hardly anyone even talks about the deep, the unseen, anymore. Some value fancy cars, and prestigious jobs, while others value smiles at church, Bible quotes, and mission trips.
In the parable, everyone applauds the beautiful sailboat, The Persona, while it is being fashioned in the harbor, though no attention is given to its craftmanship beneath the waterline. But when its captain takes it into the open waters where storms come without warning, The Persona capsizes. There is no weight beneath the waterline to keep it upright.
We cannot afford to neglect what is beneath the waterline of our lives. Though no one may see what we do in the early morning hours or congratulate us for the invisible act of kindness, each of these actions give weight beneath the waterline. Though our habits may go unnoticed, and our choices for honesty may never be recognized, these are what will bear us up when the waves tower over us.
Storms expose what is beneath the waterline. Yet, sailboats, and lives, are constructed when no one is looking, before the storms appear on the radar. Who we are behind closed doors, how we act with our family, the small, seemingly insignificant decisions of integrity, either build or erode what is beneath the waterline.
What is beneath the waterline of your life? Is it strong enough to weather a crisis? What specifically are you doing to strengthen your interior life? What are you reading? What are your core habits? How have you grown in the past year?
These questions are not intended to evoke guilt. I hope to inspire an honest assessment. More importantly, the choices you make from this day forward will set the trajectory of the years ahead. It is never too late to turn upward. No matter how deep the hole you’ve dug or the mistakes you’ve made, each day offers the chance to start over. Each day we can decide to make our character, our faith, and the people we love the center of our attention. There is always a Day One of a new start!