My paternal grandfather was a great man. He was a flawed man, of course, but he was great. Broad-shouldered. Brown-skinned. Staunch-faced, yet quick to grin. He loved strong. Faithed-wide. One of the things he was, was a longshoreman.

A few weeks ago, I attended a play with some friends. It took place in the old INS building in Seattle’s International District, which has been converted into a space that is now rented out by artists and inhabited by their work. After the play, we ran wild through the building, discovering the art displayed throughout. One piece by Robin Siegl, entitled Urgent Matter, stood out. It was a cargo ship.

I’ve always been an artist who loved to illustrate and write. But it wasn’t until three years ago, when I left the east coast to follow the Holy Spirit west, that paintings began to spill out of me. Suddenly, I had an affinity for brushes and acrylic. I began habitually buying canvases. Great healing work was done in in the hours I spent sitting on the floor in my apartment, applying wet strokes to blank canvases. The time spent curled over a taught canvas was as necessary as swimming and counseling were to the healing process.

Over that period of time, the Holy Spirit began to reveal himself in thrilling ways. Visions were scribbled across the skies. Images bearing messages would cross the path I was treading. One of which was a cargo ship. This was awesome, because it reminded me of my Grand-dad, a stubborn man whose resolute strength and faithfulness has guided me throughout my life.

The Holy Spirit has used this image of a cargo ship to direct, guide, and encourage me at different points on the journey. One revelation of this image lead me to graduate school in the Pacific Northwest. Another’s fortitude and breath assured me that even though its turning was nearly imperceptible, underneath the surface, the work of the rudders was being done. It encouraged me that, in the midst of pain and sacrifice, progress was taking place. That my investment would be worth it.

Part of my story has been waiting for my ship to come in. Yet a thought occurred to me recently: What if the work Father God and I are undertaking, in this most intimate of throne rooms, is not necessarily about waiting for my ship to come into port, but realizing that I am the ship?

I’ve thought I’ve been standing at the port, waiting impatiently for my goods to come in. What if this whole time, I’ve been the vessel? What if the work of this throne room of God is to realize that I’ve been the ship, and He’s been the port? What if, in His Gentleman-ness, it’s been me He’s been waiting for, to drop anchor? He who’s been waiting for me to arrive at an understanding that He is a Safe Harbor?

Could it be that God’s greatest desire is not for religious action, but rather relationship with His creation?

I held bitterness and resentment because He wouldn’t bring the ship into port. But if I am the ship, I must choose intentionally to come in from sea. Cargo ships may be blustered and abased by the wind and waves at great depths, yet it is not these elements alone that drive them to port. It is only through an intentional decision of the captain to turn the ship toward Harbor that causes it to find its way home. Intentionality, it appears, is key.

So many of us have been burned and deeply wounded from the things that we don’t understand about life (and religion) and for this and many other reasons, have left belief in Christianity behind. But could it be that the Christianity is man’s doing? Could it be that God’s greatest desire is not for religious action, but rather relationship with His creation? We get deeply hurt by life, then confused as we try to figure it all out. Because the chaos we’ve experienced doesn’t make sense, we turn angrily from the one who created us. We choose to face the swells and tides of life on our own. The chaos of evil tosses with the unpredictability of the sea. Having fought the rough seas for a time on our own, we find ourselves exhausted, longing to come in from the deep.

The Father waits patiently at the port, peering steadily out at the horizon, willing our vessels to come home. But He won’t make us do it. He continues to send out His beacon, continues to sing out His call. Continues to will His kids to return, anticipating their choice. So it appears, Father God is waiting for His ships to come in as well.

Yet another lesson learned from a stealthy Cargo. Some nights, you think you’re just going out to a play with friends, and Father God shows up. Thanks for the lesson, Grand-dad.