As I look out from my hotel room in Long Beach I see the great Queen Mary passenger ship docked across the harbor. She is visible through an urban forest of yacht masts, man-planted palm trees and large dock cranes. In the distance freighters inch across the horizon past offshore oil platforms.
The Long Beach Harbor has been transformed into a tourist destination complete with name brand restaurants and many things to see and do to occupy your time. It was the unusual L.A. weather of “79 and clear.” I thought of my home back in Oregon and the forecast that awaited me of “38 and foggy.”
The Long Beach Harbor is an interesting place for many reasons. My taxi driver pointed out some small islands in the harbor as we drove to the airport later in the day. These islands were actually man-made islands complete with palm trees and unique cement structures that actually hid oil rigs. I would have never guessed.
As I looked out from the seventh floor window of my hotel the Queen Mary captured my thoughts. She is big, all 1,130 feet of her. She looks like a 1930’s movie image. In my mind I can see the old movie reel depicting the walkway leading up to the ship and the men and women dressed in formal attire waving from the ship’s deck to their friends below.
This iconic ship was the flagship of the Cunard Line from 1936 to 1967. Early in her life she worked as a troop ship during World War II. She transported royalty and heads of state for three decades. Her resume was one of the most impressive in maritime history. Today she rests at a permanent dock within the Long Beach Harbor as a hotel and museum. Her great engines are silent. No foaming wake follows her from port to port. Now only small waves lap against her sides from within a protected harbor. The only reason the Queen Mary sits today in the Long Beach Harbor is because the City of Long Beach out-bid Japanese scrap metal companies who would have reduced her to a pile of recycled metal.
I began to process what it might feel like to be decommissioned like the Queen Mary. Lately, I have been meeting people who are going through major changes in their lives so the subject has been on my mind. People see their career-ending dock coming and they don’t know what to do with the change and transition.
Never did the designers of the Queen Mary envision their majestic creation ending up in a permanent dock as a tourist attraction. A purist designer might not have signed on to the project had he known of the eventual fate of his plan. I think God in His mercy keeps us ignorant of some aspects of our future because He has not yet released the measure of grace required to handle the eventual dispositions of some seasons of our lives.
On my flight home from Long Beach I sat next to a man in his mid-fifties who was just laid off unexpectedly from his job. He doesn’t know what to do. He is sitting at a personal dock with no place to go. I bet my new-found friend never imagined that at age 55 he would be out of work and wondering what to do next. He feels decommissioned.
Later in the day I left my hotel room and walked several miles across the harbor bridge to see the Queen Mary up close and personal. As my walk brought me closer to this great ship my thoughts began to orbit around the word “purpose.” This ship, as grand as she was, and is, was created for a single purpose – to carry people from one port to another. That purpose is transferrable. Real God-breathed purpose is always transferrable because it comes from eternity and is never limited by the varied and unpredictable seasons of life. That transferrable purpose is what I used to encourage my new out-of-work friend with later that day as our flight droned through the night back to Oregon.
As I stood on the dock looking up at the Queen Mary she gave me the impression of a mounted trophy head of some African game animal hanging on a paneled den wall. You looked up waiting for the head to move, but it is forever frozen in a taxidermist inspired stare. You know that the animal would look a lot better back in the wild doing what God had created it to do instead of being a wall ornament. Lives were never meant to be docked or mounted. Life must move on.
The time for the Queen Mary, in her present form, was over. Travel needs have changed since she was first designed. New cruise line concepts have been developed. It was time to dock the past and build something new for future passages.
The core purpose of the Queen Mary was not lost because she was decommissioned. Her purpose, to carry passengers, was transferred into other vessels. When the Queen Mary went to dock in Long Beach, passenger travel on the oceans didn’t stop. It continued on in new and morphed designs in other ships. The marine designers didn’t stop creating new vessels at the decommissioning of the Queen Mary. God is not about to stop redesigning the lives of those who carry His purpose. He always has a new design waiting to be discovered.
The wise ones will not stare and their docked life, but they will take their purpose in life back to the drawing boards and ask the Heavenly Master Builder what kind of new vessel He has planned for the next season of their lives. God wants to break our stare at a docked life, and the numbing sorrow at what was, and get us excited about what is to come. As the ship builders of today stare at blank computer screens the designs they produce will be wrapped around the purpose of a vessel. Designs change, purpose does not. The ship of your future is already floating in the heart of God.
The purpose of God in your life is never docked, only the vessel that carried the purpose is and that docking is only done to make way for a new vessel to carry His purpose into new ports of call. God desires to re-commission our lives for new seasons of service.
I hear the sound of a champagne bottle breaking on the bow of a new vessel.