It was the phrase in the song that bothered me last Sunday in church that set me thinking. Perhaps the enemy of my soul that morning was trying to cast doubt on my faith in Jesus Christ. Three words kept repeating themselves over and over at me from the chorus of that song and these words were, “Safe to shore.”
The song was familiar to our Praise and Worship team and my son-in-law Buhle as leader was singing with great gusto and belting out the words of “My Lighthouse,” from the group Rend Collective. He was dancing around on the platform while filled with such joy that it was so obvious to me he was reaching out to all of us that Sunday morning but the words “safe to shore” were causing me some anguish.
“In my wrestling and in my doubts, in my failures you won’t walk out.
Your great love will lead me through; you are the peace in my troubled sea.
My lighthouse! I will trust the promise…You will carry me safe to shore, safe to shore.”
Safe to shore, I thought, how will that work for my brother George in Vancouver who is dying from cancer? My mind was troubled, for as a family we had already lost two brothers and two sisters to cancer. Oh how hard I have been praying to the Lord to spare him since my visit to see him in Vancouver last February! Will he arrive safe to shore?
What about my friend who is so troubled and now lies in the hospital here in New Glasgow whose future looks troubled and uncertain? What did the songwriters really mean by those words, “safe to shore?"
Does this really mean that when we pray and believe, that our loved ones will be spared from pain and suffering? Will those who are lonely and discouraged suddenly find peace of mind? Will we go through a time when the threat of wars and hostilities, the bombings and destruction of so many innocent lives will cease? Will these people make it safe to shore? How will we get to the shore safely if the boat we are travelling in may, at any moment split up and all is lost? What kind of shore are we really talking about here, I wondered? An eternal shore or simply the path through our difficulties while here on earth? These were some of the questions going through my mind on Sunday morning and I was struggling for answers.
Did the shore we were singing about resemble the eternal shore we would one day arrive at when all our suffering was over? I.e. our heavenly home? I thought of the verses from John’s Gospel, chapter 14:13-14,
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
I discovered as I researched the song that the two composers, Chris Llewellyn and Gareth Gilkeson, while writing the song remembered the words of Jesus when He said, “I am the light of the world.” What this really means, they said, was that Jesus doesn’t walk out on us in our failures and weaknesses and that He alone is our peace in our troubled seas of life, whatever we are going through. No matter what may happen in this earthly life of ours, know for certain that God’s not going to drown you in your circumstances.
Safe to shore, yes these words literally mean that when you are lost and don’t know where you are, you can trust that God is going to lead you safe to shore even through the lingering doubts in your mind. You are going to get to the harbour and the land. You are not going to starve and be overcome by the waves.
That morning as I worshipped and grappled with these words “safe to shore,” I now realize that Jesus is indeed the lighthouse and is well aware of our pleadings for those who are suffering. We especially need to raise our voices in prayer during the most troubled times of our lives.
I have lived a long time and as I reflect back through the challenges of my own life, I can honestly say that God was there for me all the way. I am thankful for all those who continue to reach out to one another by their prayers to the “Lighthouse Keeper.”
Today, May 9, let us all remember in prayer the families of the 26 Westray miners who in 1992 lost their sons and fathers, neighbours and friends in that terrible Westray Mine explosion. May their light to us forever shine
Fred Jeffery, a soldier in the Salvation Army and a retired school administrator.