A jogger running along Ireland’s southern coast last Sunday spotted a most unusual sight: wedged onto a rocky outcropping below was a mysterious 2,400-ton ship. The Irish Coast Guard was notified and sent a helicopter to rescue any crew members aboard.
It turns out, the boat was a “ghost ship.”
The MV Alta was sailing from Greece to Haiti in September 2018 when it became disabled in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Ten crew members were stranded aboard and eventually rescued by a US Coast Guard cutter. Officials reached out to the ship’s owner, hoping it would hire a commercial tugboat to tow the vessel to shore.
What happened next is unclear.
What we do know is that, last August, an ice patrol ship manned by the British Royal Navy spotted the MV Alta in the middle of the ocean. The vessel reportedly then crossed toward Africa, drifting north past the Iberian Peninsula and into the Celtic Sea just south of the British Isles.
A massive storm over the weekend produced waves up to eighty feet tall. They apparently brought the MV Alta to land as well.
Officials determined Monday that there was no sign of pollution. On Tuesday, a contractor was to inspect the wreck at low tide to determine what to do with the ship.
Let’s consider the “ghost ship” as a cultural metaphor.
‘God loves each of us as if there were only one of us’
We live in an empiricist culture that believes “seeing is believing.” Of course, we cannot use that maxim to prove its truth.
Nonetheless, we focus on what we can experience. Wars overseas are less relevant to us than shootings near home. Brexit matters more to the British and the Europeans than it does to the Australians.
And a ship floating in the middle of the ocean makes no news until it makes land.
This focus on personal experience can cause us to value ourselves by how others value us. A psychologist once taught me this formula: “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.”
The good news is that, as St. Augustine noted, God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
He sees you when everyone else seems to have abandoned you. He sees you when you feel that you’re floating alone in the ocean of humanity. He sees you when the storms wash you onto the beach.
Now he invites us to see each other the way he sees us.
After Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, performing the lowest act of manual servitude in their society, he told them: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Such compassion is our most powerful witness to a compassionless culture.
In fact, according to Jesus, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).
Who will know you are his disciple today?