“That is just ridiculous. What an idiotic thing to do,” the tall man, standing next to me, muttered to his companion. He was referring to the construction of a ship called Vasa (pronounced Va:sa, with accent on last syllable). It is housed in the Vasa Museum in the Royal National City Park in Stockholm, Sweden that my husband and I visited last year.
Our guide, as we toured the museum, told us Vasa is the legendary ship built by the King of Sweden in 1626-1627. It was commissioned as a symbol of the King’s military ambition and designed to be a powerful war vessel armed with tons of bronze cannons. The Swedish King, Gustavus Adolphus, used the majority of the country’s resources to establish a powerful military presence in his campaign to occupy countries in the Baltics and defeat Poland-Lithuania during a conflict he initiated in 1621.
Formidable as she was, and no doubt ready to prove her superiority in battle, Vasa was unable to make it farther than 1,400 yards out of the harbor on her maiden voyage in August, 1628. Due to instability caused by unbalanced weight from heavy battle equipment in the upper portion of her hull, she sank moments after leaving port. Despite warnings, the King proceeded with the launch that resulted in destruction of the vessel and loss of lives. The ship was salvaged and restored as closely as possible to original form in 1961. Today it sits in a museum designed to house this piece of Swedish history.
When we returned to the U.S., I thought little about this story, and what it said about personal choices, until recent months that is. As things in our country/world have escalated in violence, division, uncertainty and fear, I have felt increasingly more combative as a means to take control of the uncontrollable events around me. Then one day while looking at pictures from our trip, I found the photos of this ill-fated vessel. In my quiet time with God, I began to reflect on Vasa, what made her unsuccessful at her mission and what lessons could be learned from her.
God called me to start noticing how I proceed with each day and to answer the following questions. Do I pour my mental and spiritual resources into being better than or more powerful and dominant in my encounters with others (including on social media)? Do I arm myself with the heavy battle equipment of judgement as I venture into the sea of other humans who may also be feeling the sting of division, uncertainty and fear? Do I have need to engage in struggles while thinking there are only two sides and mine is the right side? Do I sometimes ignore the warnings of God’s teachings and my wiser friends when I am about to embark upon a course that can possibly lead to the destruction of a relationship or distance me from the Holy Spirit?
Sadly, I must confess that on some days, if I’m being honest, I have to answer guilty to all of the above. But being aware of these characteristics has brought me into a new realization about choosing courses of action. I can set my face toward battle as a primary function of my day. Or I can hand off my cannons, my illusion of mighty control and my need to be right, to the One who fights my battles for me.
As Keith and I have traveled this world, learned from her people, listened to the stories and histories of others, I am enriched by what God teaches if I will first take a seat in His classroom. I don’t believe He sends lessons to shame or blame. I believe He wants me to release the burdens that can keep me from doing the work He has assigned for me. In this case I’m grateful for the lessons of a ship built centuries ago.
After all we have endured in the first half of 2020, recently I’ve begun to wake up each day, look in the mirror and ask, “Got Vasa today? Or is there another way to sail the seas of uncertainty, division and sometimes fear?” It really is a personal choice. I know I can’t do this by my own power. Trying to do so adds frustration to the complicated mix of things I don’t want in my life. I’ve found it’s simply about being willing to ask for help in releasing those heavy cannons designed for battle and destruction that keep me from enjoying smooth sailing.
Connect with me, Laura Padgett, on Twitter @lauraleepadgett or my Facebook Author Page
Check out the books I have published:
- “Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers.
- The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
For autographed copies of my books, you may click on the tab for buying books on my home page and if you live in the U.S. I will sign and send a copy to you after you purchase one there.