One of my favorite stories is about a Navy officer who always dreamed of commanding a battleship. He finally achieved that dream and received commission of the fleet’s newest, proudest ship.
One stormy night, as the ship plowed through the seas, the captain was on bridge duty when, off to the port, he saw a strange light rapidly approaching his own vessel.
Immediately, he ordered the signalman to flash a message that said, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the south.” Only a moment passed before the reply came: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”
Determined that his ship would take a backseat to no other, the captain snapped out the order: “Alter course 10 degrees — I’m the captain.”
The response beamed back was, “Alter your course 10 degrees — I’m Seaman 3rd Class Jones.”
Infuriated, the captain grabbed the signal light and fired off, “Alter your course — I am a battleship.”
The reply came back, “Alter your course. I am a lighthouse.”
Sometimes, being headstrong and belligerent can cause a person some trouble. One such example appears in the Old Testament, where we read about Jacob. He had been successful throughout his life — at least, according to society’s definition. All his life, however, he had been a scoundrel, a conniver. He was a schemer, a manipulator and was quite greedy. He didn’t care what it took to get what he wanted. By one method or another, he had acquired great wealth and status.
You may remember how, in the Old Testament, Jacob had manipulated his twin brother, Esau, to make him give up his right to the family inheritance for a bowl of soup.
You may remember how Jacob outwitted his blind father, Isaac, by putting on sheepskin to trick him into thinking Jacob was Esau who had come to receive the family inheritance.
Then, in fear of revenge, he fled home and got as far away from Esau as he could because Esau had vowed to kill his brother.
Later on, Jacob turned the tables on his father-in-law, Laban, who had tricked Jacob into working for him for free for 14 years. Jacob later turned the tables on him with his own trickery, and became quite wealthy at Laban’s expense.
Yes, Jacob had done some nasty things, and had gotten some important people very angry with him. For him to enjoy his wealth, he had to flee for his life and live in another country.
Do you know people like that — people who don’t care who gets in the way, or who gets hurt as long as they get what they want? They leave a wake of emotional destruction behind them. They enjoy that they are getting what they want, no matter the cost to others. My heart goes out to people struggling to fill some void in their life, a void created by some hurt or neglect forced upon them.
The unspoken question that drives many of us is, “Am I happy?” If the answer is “no,” you seek ways to change things to become happy.
Unfortunately, most people seek change in the wrong way. What usually gets changed is their job, spouse, clothes or where they live. They keep bouncing around from one thing to another, hoping the next discovery will make them happy. Unfortunately, this kind of searching continues to turn up short-term happiness or purely empty results, and never addresses the deeper need within them.
My question for you is, “Are you happy?”
If you are, I celebrate with you.
If not, I ask you to ponder why you are not.
Material possessions do not make one happy, although they can sometimes help. Rather, relationships bring the most happiness and joy into life.
But the ultimate relationship — one with Jesus Christ — brings the ultimate joy.
Give thanks to God.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.