finally, I have friends in high places – well at least a friend in a high place. This is a recent appointment for my friend, a new title bestowed upon her in this season of her life – certainly something noteworthy to put on her resume, something impressive to add to her list of accomplishments.
This reminded me that I, too was once a captain. I was a patrol captain at my elementary school when I was in sixth grade. I’d forgotten until now about this title, which I held for a year. I guess it meant I was in charge of the other “safety patrols” as we carried out our duties each day before and after school at the street corners where the students crossed as they came to and left from school each day. We didn’t have uniforms or hats or anything much to set us apart, just a sash of sorts with a badge pinned to it, proclaiming our status as part of the school patrol. Today these are called crossing guards and actual grownups do this job.
But it must have been a position of power and influence, as the title “captain” implies. After all, there are captains of ships, captains of football teams, captains of industry, pirate captains and so on. The captain is the one in charge, in control – the captain makes the decisions for himself and for the others over whom he is captain.
So, I’m thinking to be a Snow Captain is pretty cool, who wouldn’t want to be the boss of the snow? Can my friend decide when and where and how much it snows? Does she get to decide what kind of snow and how long it will stick around? Imagine how great to have big, fluffy flakes floating around in the air, falling to the ground – but only landing on the grass and bushes and trees, making them beautiful, while leaving the streets, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots clear.
My friend, in her capacity as Snow Captain, could command snow to be on sledding hills and ski slopes. She could arrange for the optimum amount of snow in yards, enough to build snowmen without leaving bare patches. But how far do her captain powers extend? If only as far as her own neighborhood, that’s still a lot of power. At least in her neighborhood there would be no shoveling of driveways and sidewalks, no need to clear the streets. All the other neighborhoods would be jealous of her “snow captain powers”. It would be quite picturesque all the time in her neighborhood, if only the snow now obeyed my friend all because of her newly bestowed title of “Snow Captain”.
But therein lies the problem. The title of “snow captain” implies some measure of power and influence, but do those things actually come with the title? – this man made, man appointed title? Who really is “Captain of the Snow”?
I love these words which God spoke to Job after Job had questioned God. God asks of Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, . . . What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, . . . Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?” (Job 38:4, 22-30)
Job 37:6-7 tells us, “He (God) says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that all men He has made may know His work, . . . ” Looks like our Creator God is the real snow captain, after all. He not only has the title, He has the power over the elements that He created. They obey Him.
In Matthew 8:26-27 we read where the disciples experienced this same revelation of God’s captainess over His own creation. “Then He (Jesus) got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!’ ”
The poet, William Ernest Henley, wrote in his famous poem, Invictus, these memorable lines; “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Written in 1875, these words have been quoted by many over the years, including Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. These words are quoted so often because they are thought to be words of encouragement and of inspiration. They sound as though they are just that.
In fact, these words sound so good to our ears that we fail to notice something very important about them. These words are false! These words are not truth!
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
I am not the captain of my soul. My soul needs a Savior. I am not the master of my fate. God is Sovereign over all the universe, over all that He has created.
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. . . . what I have planned, that will I do.”
I like to think I am in control, but I am not. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)
I would rather be in the hands of an all wise, loving, merciful, good God than in the hands of any captain, including myself. I do not want to be the captain of my own soul. I did not create my soul, and I can’t save it, sustain it, care for it, or prepare it for eternity. Only my Heavenly Father can do that.
To me the lines of the poem, Invictus, are lines of despair, not of hope. Consider a few lines earlier when the poet states, “Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.”
Not very encouraging at all. No inspiration there. If all the author is expecting in his future is “the Horror of the shade,” and still he is not wise enough to be afraid, are we confusing his lack of discernment with courage?
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)
The author of the poem, Invictus, didn’t realize that a properly placed fear of God means we don’t have to fear anything or anyone else. I can live my life with courage, but only when the “captain of my soul” is my Creator, God. I am not fit for the job.
I love what the criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus said, when he asked the criminal hanging on the cross on the other side of Jesus this question – “Don’t you even fear God when you are dying? . . . Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’ And Jesus replied, ‘Today you will be with Me in Paradise. This is a solemn promise.’ ” (Luke 23:40-43)
There is a line in the Invictus poem that reads, “Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.”
This man, the criminal on the cross next to Jesus, had a bloody head for sure. But unlike the man in the poem, this man’s head did not remain unbowed. He bowed his head. This man had the good sense and the courage to humble himself, to bow his head before the Creator of the universe, who was hanging on the cross beside him and to ask for what Jesus had the power to give to him – forgiveness of his sins and eternal life with Him in heaven.
The words of the poem Invictus are deception masquerading as inspiration. Its words sound sweet to our ears because we want to believe that we are in control. Perhaps, asking the questions God asked of Job would put things in perspective for us. Questions such as, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb? Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place? Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. If I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul, then I am in big trouble and without hope. But fortunately, that is not the case. My heart, if not my head, is often bloodied, and I am often afraid, unlike the man in the poem, but
even though I may face trouble and hardship and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger or the sword (or a gun) – I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
When I am bloodied, I will bow and in allowing the One who is the Creator of my soul to also be the “captain of my soul” I will be more than a conqueror. therein lies the hope, therein lies the victory . . . therein lies all inspiration, therein lies the very reason for me to have courage and to live my life with courage . . .
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! (have courage) I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus, the captain of the snow – Jesus, the captain of my soul!
sincerely, Grace Day