Agape: March 4, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

On a late September day in 1978, six sailor friends and I set off from Rockport, Maine toward Huntington, N.Y. We left Penobscot Bay on a stiff wind and pointed the compass south-southeast toward Long Island. As day dissolved into evening, the weather deteriorated and we found ourselves in the eye of a powerful Atlantic storm. Battered by 30-foot waves, our Irwin 39’ eventually lost power, all radio communication, and the mast. We lurched from port to starboard as the vessel continuously tried to right itself.

At the mercy of weather and every crest and swell of frigid waves, I had a choice: panic or acceptance. I chose the latter and descended into a state of utter calm. If this was my time to die, at 21, that was God’s will. As my friend, the captain of Liberty, sent up fizzling red flares into the dark sky; I sang:

Kumbaya, my Lord,
Kumbaya, my Lord,
Kum bay ya, my Lord,
O Lord, kumbaya.

Yes, come by here, my Lord, I prayed. Come by here.

Many moments later—a few hours? A lifetime?—a blinding white light shone from the horizon. It was not yet dawn. As the light approached, the silhouette of a huge naval destroyer gained on us. After many harrowing hours, we were found and rescued, one person at a time ascending a Jacob’s ladder to safety onto a 448-foot U.S. Naval vessel. All the hours we didn’t know if anyone had seen our flares, they did.

God did too. This experience taught me the power of God’s protection and love. While we were floundering, He was on the way. Another lesson? I have counted every day since a gift (now at 63). God is good. God is faithful. God is love.

Dear Lord, help us to receive each day as a gift and abide in the knowledge that You are ever good, faithful, and loving. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney