Note: This was written by John Liebler, an Episcopal priest form Florida. I saw it in rec.boats.building some time ago, saved it, and still refer to it often. With his permission I have posted it here. It is meaningful to me, maybe it will be to you too.

Back to the Boatyard


Lessons God Taught Me While Building a Boat

Fr. John Liebler (Based on a sermon preached October 3, 1999 on Philippians 3: 12-17)

As many of you know, I've been building a 15' sailboat for the past three years. Well, two years. Three years ago I began building a boat, reached a frustration point, and quit. It slowly rotted in the back yard. I didn't want to talk about it and felt like I'd failed, which I guess I had. Finally I came to my senses, cut it up and hauled it all away. Good Riddance! I was free! But somehow God wanted me to learn how to break through failure and to persevere. A few months later-about two years ago, I caught the "bug" again. I found a set of plans that were somewhat more appropriate for one who had never used a tool in his life. I worked on it a bit each day. Now I'm a few weeks from completion. She will be named "By John-By God," pointing to my pride of accomplishment, to my sense that God drove me to build, and to the spiritual truth that when God created us He implanted within us the drive to create things of beauty and usefulness.

Sanding is a tedious task and I have sanded many hours over the past two years. Here are some things God "said" to me while I sanded...and sanded...and sanded:

Notice that you didn't want to talk with anyone about your feelings of shame at failing the first time. Notice how good it felt to acknowledge your failure by cutting it up and throwing it away. When you sin and fall away from me you are equally reluctant to share your failure with others, something you need to do. When you "cut [your sin and failure] up and haul it away" you feel a sense of freedom. Only then can you find the desire to begin again.

Just as you have made this boat, which is beautiful to your eyes, so I have created (and continue to create) you. And you are the apple of My eye.

You felt free to depart from the plans to shape the boat to your unique vision and to the shallow waters where you live. Yet you always consulted the boat's designer before you made changes, humbly acknowledging that you could possibly damage the boat by your changes. So also I give you great freedom to carve out a character that reflects the unique qualities I have implanted within you. I don't want cookie cutter Christians. But be careful and consult me along the way.

Most evenings-even busy ones-you did a little something to move the construction process forward. Thirty minutes a day. Some days you put in several hours. And sometimes you went a week or two without touching your boat. What if you were to give me just thirty minutes each day? What wonders might we build together?

The abstract drawings weren't enough for you. You had trouble visualizing how to make a three-dimensional object from two-dimensional plans. So you looked at many real boats to get ideas and to understand. That's why I sent my Son into the world-to display my abstract will in three-dimensional human terms that you can understand. This three-dimensional full-bodied picture of my will remains visible for you in the lives of others in whom you see Jesus. Look to their lives as examples.

Some mistakes took a split second to commit, yet weeks to correct. Some sins take moments to commit, and years to heal.

Some mistakes aren't worth worrying about. After all, you aren't perfect, I am!

Finally, some mistakes were made early in the formative stages of your boat, like the twist you allowed to form in it. These will never be corrected. So also each person has deep warps in the personality.

When you sail your boat it will tend to veer off course, due to the twist in it. Yet you will be able to sail straight by keeping alert with a firm hand on the tiller. So also in your living you tend to veer off course, due to the warps in your nature. Never think, however, that because of your warps you aren't free to live according to my will. Keep alert. Keep a firm hand on the tiller. Choose your course.