It was a chilly morning in late October when Captain Cribbs first spotted the ship flying the Jolly Roger. Immediately, he knew the terrible ordeal his men were in for. He pulled his coat tighter about his shoulders as the restless waves rocked his ship in an almost lyrical pattern. Without a moment’s hesitation, he gave his men their orders, and like a well-oiled machine, the crew set to work, preparing for the horrendous battle about to engulf them.
Cannoneers and their crew prepared their artillery while others greased the deck and covered it with dried peas. They then laid down boards with nails driven through them. Sharp shooters prepared their weapons as they took up positions. If pirates were going to take the Bauden, they would have to fight savagely for Captain Cribbs and his men weren’t going to yield so much as a plank.
“Strike colors!” the captain of the Trompeuse commanded, motioning to the flag snapping high in the stiff morning breeze.
Cribbs’ eyes glowered with pent-up rage, and the pirate captain knew death would come for many men on both ships. Suddenly, cannons thundered mercilessly, the vibrations shaking the very hulls of the two ships. When cannon balls landed, masts splintered and timbers became deadly projectiles hitting several men. The broadside continued as soon as cannons were reloaded, and once more men and ships were reduced to human pulp and wooden fragments.
Four hours later, both Cribbs and the pirate captain lay dead. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the pirates withdrew.
Hopefully, your days don’t get as dramatic as that, but still I must ask you. Who’s broad siding your ship? Out on the high seas of life, dangers wait. Some are big and thus obvious. Others are seemingly insignificant yet just as deadly.
When things don’t go well for you, when you run into trouble, what are you prepared to do? Are you willing to bleed for your dreams? We all have our ship to command. How we handle that responsibility makes all the difference in the world.
Broadsides from our enemies are often predictable, so we can prepare for them. But how many times are we broadsided by small things, and then with barely a whimper, we surrender.
How many times were you sailing smoothly towards the island of your dreams, when that mutinous voice inside your head cried out. “I’m too old.” “I’m too young.” “It’s too late to do anything about it.” “I don’t know where to begin.” “I don’t have the connections.” “I don’t have the experience.” “No one wants me because I have too much experience.” “I got a late start in life.” And on and on the traitorous voice whispers.
I know you’ve heard of Winston Churchill. In the darkest hours of World War II, his people were being decimated by Hitler’s rockets. With morale pitifully low, he dug deep within himself and encouraged his fellow countrymen to do the same, finding the resolve and courage to carry on.
Think you’ve been broadsided one too many times? Think you’re the only one with insurmountable problems? Then let me introduce you to Michelangelo Buonarroti. He was this artist from the Italian Renaissance who created little known works like the Pieta, the statue of David, and the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Did you know that at one time, he had to go into hiding because his political enemies thought he needed to be eliminated? And you think you have problems?
When the cannon balls begin to fly in your life, it’s time to get mad not quit. It’s time to double down, not surrender. As the Marines say, “Surrender is not in my vocabulary.” In fact, when the Marines arrived on the frontline at Belleau Wood during World War I as reinforcements to the British and French, the fighting was so gruesome they were told to retreat. “Retreat, Hell!” Captain Lloyd Williams snapped. “We just got here!” He and his men stayed to stem the tide of the Germans. Williams was to die nine days later from mustard gas and shrapnel.
My brother-in-law, Larry Molinaro, once wrote a song, Life Isn’t a Dress Rehearsal. If he knew how much of a pirate I am, I think he would have written me a song and called it: “Life Isn’t a Mock Battle! ”Those cannon balls that come flying at you out of nowhere are real. Those dreams and goals you have are real. And striking your colors and running for cover is not an option.
I’m going to leave you with a little story about Lord Nelson, the great British naval strategist and hero. He was fighting under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. Things were going terribly wrong, and Parker ordered the fleet to retreat. When they did, things went from bad to worse and many of the retreating ships were massacred.
In those days, there were no electronic communications. Orders were sent by a series of flag signals from another ship. Lord Nelson put his telescope up to his blind eye which he lost in another battle. “I don’t see any order to retreat,” he said to an aide standing nearby. He literally turned a blind eye to the overwhelming forces about to engulf the British Navy and stood his ground. Because of his valor and that of his men, he destroyed the Danish Navy. Sir Hyde Parker was disgraced and stripped of his command. Commander-in-Chief of the British fleet was given to Lord Nelson.
Tomorrow the sun will come up in my neighborhood. I bet it’ll come up in yours too. It will be another day to sink yourself not to the fingertips but elbow -deep in this business called Life which has always been a mix of Dreams, heartache, sweat, blood, and tears. What are you prepared to do when someone tries to broadside your dreams? It’s your ship, and it’s your life. Whatever you do, don’t broadside yourself.
The Uncommon Mariner
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