This is the title of one of my favorite songs by Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. The first time Debbie and I heard Bruce was while he was on tour promoting
that album. We were living in the Washington, DC area at the time and we was playing at the Barns at Wolf Trap. It was a great evening but really has nothing to do with this post. Except that author Brennan Manning wrote about being shipwrecked at the stable in a chapter in his book Lion and Lamb: The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus. The chapter is entitled “The Shipwrecked at the Stable” and in the liner notes (remember those?) Bruce mentions the book and the chapter. He got the idea of the song from Brennan
At the end of the “Shipwrecked” chapter, Brennan tells a story that has caught my
attention because it took place in Anderson, SC which was a town that I visited often during my time at Clemson University and through which now I alway travel on my way to visit my aunt and uncle who live in Due West, SC. The story is about of all things a boy shining his mother’s shoes on Christmas Eve.
In 1980, the day before Christmas, Richard Ballenger’s mother in Anderson, South Carolina, was busy wrapping packages and asked her young son to shine her shoes. Soon, with the proud smile that only a seven-year-old can muster, he presented the shoes for inspection. His mother was so pleased, she gave him a quarter.
On Christmas morning as she put on the shoes to go to church, she noticed a lump in one shoe. She took it off and found a quarter wrapped in paper. Written on the paper in a child’s scrawl were the words, “I done it for love”.
When the final curtain falls, each of us will be the sum of our choices throughout life, the sum of the appointments we kept and the appointments we didn’t keep. The glory of the shipwrecked will be that they habitually failed to turn up for duty. In their defense they claim that they were destined by a baby in swaddling clothes. When interrogated as to why they hung out at a stable, they answer, “We done it for love”.
In their integrity the shipwrecked preserve the meaning of Christmas in its pristine purity – the birthday of the Savior and the eruption of the messianic era into history.
This Christmas, may you belong to their number.
Merry Christmas! May all you shipwrecked find new and bigger planks from the ship to hold on to and may all those thinking they are traveling on the Queen Elizabeth II learn how to be shipwrecked.