Herman Melville, in his short story Billy Budd, has Captain Edward Fairfax Vere, of the HMS Indomitable, reflect on the profound events that transpired on the ship under his command in the summer of 1797. “We were lost on the infinite sea,” says the Captain. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries this image of being lost at sea became a symbol for the journey of life. Like those lost at sea, in our life’s journey we too may feel as though we are at the mercy of the winds and waves of life, that we are being blown hither and yon with no way of controlling our direction. This, suggests Melville and others, is a part of the human condition.
How many of us also feel as though we are cast adrift in the ocean of life? The text from the conclusion of the Adam and Eve story suggests that this all began when they were cast from the Garden. The picture below is a famous depiction of Adam and Eve being forced to leave Eden with the Angel of God blocking their return. Where are they going? What now? One senses that they have no idea. They are castaways now on the ocean of life.
But yet God intercedes. For in His overwhelming love for these humans He created he cannot allow them to be destroyed. This is the consequence of the act of disobedience; this is the consequence for humans seeking to place themselves in the place of God. But, God protects His beloved creation and provides for their journey. Verse 21 tells us that it is God who clothes the human creatures. God provides. And God will continue to provide and be present as the humans continue on their journey of life. God is committed to His beloved creation and to people. God loves this creation and showers His grace upon us all.
Are we “lost on the infinite sea” of life then? In the Gospel of John, Thomas asks Jesus, how can we know the way? Jesus responds with these famous words: I am the way, the truth and the life. We are never alone – we are never “lost.” God is always with us. God loves us and is committed to us and continues to be present with us, especially when the storms and the winds and the waves would appear to overwhelm us.