The Boat Builder

I doubt Mom anticipated the production of a sea-faring vessel when she brought out the craft box for my begging daughters Saturday.

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Boat building is always on the agenda for my dad. We just didn’t realize the condition was genetic!

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The girls had moved on to other distractions, while my oldest boy kept toiling away at his sail-equipped canoe, probably inspired by the ship paintings and models scattered throughout the house.

Mom and I were taking pictures of what we thought was the finished product…

boat project 2

…when Dad walked in.

If there is anything my dad is better at than building boats, it is building a love of learning. It rises to the top of his to-do list as soon as he sees a spark of interest or a bent toward giftedness in a specific area.

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It takes time to invest in a person this way, but even a little can go a long way.

The two builders were soon engrossed in adding “shrouds” to the boat.

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I checked Wikipedia: The ropes — shrouds — supporting the mast can be formed as a triangular net, like a wedge from a spider’s web. I guess they might look like shrouds of clothing — or ghostly wraps on a ship gliding across a misty sea.

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Mom and Dad met each other in Riverside, an old, scenic neighborhood in the city where I live. My dad’s family moved next door to my mom’s family, and the rest is history.

Although my dad had a rough childhood, one of his best memories was building sailboats with his dad. They navigated them down the river, apparently right through town. What a great memory to keep of a dad who died early, leaving six children and a pregnant wife behind!

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That was the image that naturally came to mind Sunday, August 5, 2012, when our lead pastor told the story of the little boy who spent his summer building a toy boat. It seems longer ago than that, when I was just getting comfortable attending church regularly again. I’d had the wind knocked out of my sails, and my faith still appeared as a ghostly vessel, even without supportive shrouds.

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The little boy, the story goes, spent weeks and weeks perfecting his boat. Then he spent another week getting the paint just right and letting it dry.

Finally, it was ready.

He gathered up his creation and took it down to the river to watch it do what he had made it to do.

It was a beautiful day, and the boat floated just as he expected! He was feeling satisfied, when suddenly the wind picked up and caught the little sail. It sent the boat out of the boy’s reach, out into the current. The boy tried to retrieve it, but it sailed around a bend. When he followed it, he could not find it, even though he searched and searched.

Sadly, he went home. In the following weeks, he kept his eye out, always hoping to spot the boat on the bank or maybe in a neighboring child’s hands.

A few weeks later, the boy walked into a pawn shop, and there on a shelf was his boat! He examined it, easily recognizing the carefully designed details. He caught the owner of the pawn shop and pointed out the boat, saying, “That’s my boat! I made it! It’s mine!”

But the pawn shop owner said, “I’m sorry, kid. It’s my boat now. If you want it, you’ll have to pay the price on the tag.”

The boy reluctantly left the pawn shop and ran home to count his money — not nearly enough. He spent the last few weeks of summer working as many odd jobs as he could find, earning the rest of the cost for the boat that belonged to him.

One day he gathered all the money together and ran back to the pawn shop. He was relieved to see the boat still on the shelf. He handed everything to the owner, who lifted down the boat, saying, “Here you go, kid. It’s yours now.”

The boy walked out of the shop, tightly holding his boat. As he reached the street, he shouted happily:

“Yes, you are mine! You are twice mine! For first I made you, then I bought you.”

I’m sure a couple rivers of tears had made their way down my face as the sermon wrapped up.

First He made me…

“…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Then He bought me…

“…you are not your own … you have been bought with a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

It wasn’t any small investment — He gave all He had to seek out and buy back what was His.

“…he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8)

“For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16)

“…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

And this is what I was designed to do:

“[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:4)

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“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

15 Responses to “The Boat Builder”
  1. Sabra Penley says:

    Debbie, I love this post. What a touching story and beautiful message. I love it when God takes the pieces of our lives–your pastor’s sermon, your dad and son building the boat, and, of course, His Word–and wraps them up in a wonderful package. That’s what this post is like–a beautiful gift, all wrapped up with God’s love straight from your heart. Thank you for sharing all of it. Blessings to you.

  2. Judy says:

    lump in my throat

  3. Reva says:

    wonderful – I feel so honored to know all these people

  4. Dana B says:

    Oh, Bob is one of my absolute favorite people ever. I loved this post! Thank you. And what a lovely blog you have – WELL done. 🙂

    • mulberrytreehouse says:

      I think the feeling is shared by many people! I always appreciate encouragement from a fellow blogger! I’m enjoying your site this evening!

  5. BettySue says:

    “It takes time to invest in a person this way, but even a little can go a long way.”….THIS is so true and will turn a heart back to the One and Only TRUE God…I can testify to that….mustard seed faith invested….I love the way you are able to package everything together … your life experiences, His Holy Word, and the boat builder parable….the most powerful action is called “investing in a person” and I am reminded of the giving of talents…they “invested in”…but one “feared he would lose it so he buried it”….if we want to keep it, we must give it away or “invest it in”…Thank You for investing your talent and thank YOU, Lord for allowing me to take time to BREATHE in this beautiful moment with You!!!

  6. Barbara Greenstein says:

    Sounds like you had a great childhood and now your children are blessed with wonderful grandparents! We are all blessed to “belong” to the Lord. Beautiful writing, beautiful message.

  7. Emily says:

    you are such a gifted writer paired with God’s words speaking through you and beautiful pictures and your posts are simply profound. love.

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