A theologian pondered how we can draw near to the throne of grace and what role prayer plays in this. He thought of a boat that was attached to the shore with a long rope. Once that boat was far out into the sea, the crew began to pull on the line. As the distance closed between land and boat, the sailors might have been tempted to think that they were drawing the land toward themselves. But, of course, the land did not move one inch. Rather, it was the boat that moved as it was steadily pulled toward the land. And just like that, we are to attach our desires to God’s throne with prayer.
Last week I spent an unexpectedly long time in small-town Alaska—in a town that revolves around commercial fishing. If you’ve seen shows like Deadliest Catch, you’ve seen Amaknak Island which forms part of the sprawling Aleutian chain. You’ve seen the town of Unalaska and its harbor, Dutch Harbor. You’ve seen the fleet that heads into the dangerous Bering Sea to fish for crab. You’ve seen the outsized characters who captain these boats and who man them.
We had the interesting experience of spending a couple of afternoons on one of these boats to see how crab is hauled up from the depths (and, later, how it is cleaned, cut, cooked, and devoured). The owners of the boat, a delightful Christian couple, were eager to show us their trade and to answer all of our questions. On Sunday we worshipped with their church as part of our Worship Round the World project. On Monday morning we prepared to head home. And then everything started to get strange.
As morning broke we saw that a deep, low fog had settled in and we learned that every flight to the mainland had been canceled. No ferries run this time of year and there is no other way off the island except to fly, so we would need to wait it out. The fog remained on Tuesday and flights were canceled again. On Wednesday a volcano that had erupted in Russia blew volcanic ash east over the Aleutians and flights were grounded for that reason. On Thursday a volcano in western Alaska erupted and spewed ash west over the Aleutians, once again grounding flights. How the same wind can blow ash both east and west I’ll never know! On Friday the bad weather returned, until finally Saturday was clear enough that planes could once again come and go.