The Port Angeles harbor has a behemoth in it. Actually, by the time you are reading this, it will likely be on its journey home, but the Polar Pioneer oil drilling rig has been a fixture when overlooking our seascape for the better part of a year. It has come and gone once already, but appears to be leaving this time for good. With that being said, I have no vested interest in big oil. If I had my way, I’d love to eliminate our dependency on the stuff for good. I’m not opposed to driving cars and know we need oil rigs to mine our precious resources, but no matter what your views are being parked in the Pacific Northwest draws some attention. When the Pioneer made a brief pit stop in Seattle this last spring, it was met by thousands of “kayaktivists” who were determined to let it know it wasn’t welcome in Elliot Bay. It was quite a sight – thousands of protesters in their kayaks made from petroleum products surrounding this mammoth structure. I laughed a little at the irony.
It’s hard not to be impressed and marvel at the sheer size and magnitude of this piece of machinery when you’re up close and personal and I actually noticed an interesting phenomenon happen with the people of Port Angeles the longer the Pioneer remained in our harbor. They actually became attached. After it left the first time for its summer in Alaska, I remember several people commenting that they were going to miss seeing it. I’m not sure how a person grows fond of an oil rig, but it seemed to be happening. There definitely was opposition and protest when she first arrived, but that all seemed to fade in time and a mutual respect seemed to take hold – the Pioneer for her place in the safety of our harbor, and the people of this community for her representation of something grand.
As if the relationship couldn’t get any stranger, last week an unexpected gift was lowered from her secret chambers. 15 tons of food worth $40,000 was donated to bless our community. The food banks prepared themselves to receive it and rejoiced at the impact this would have for hungry families over the holidays. Read the full story here. However, there was an element of mystery surrounding this exchange, for no one really knew much about the donor or the organization that owns the Pioneer; plus it seemingly came out of nowhere, with no advanced notice and without us asking for it! This is, in my opinion, the exact meaning of a true blessing. I began to take notice that God was saying something about Himself in all of this.
As I was running along the waterfront the other day, I realized that no matter what our opinion is of the Pioneer or what it represents, we are more than willing to accept its gift. We can be so offended and filled with disgust by something or someone, yet when their true goodness shines through unexpectedly, it crumbles our opposition. How often do we react to God the same way?
Just as many people have labored to build and usher the Pioneer to its various drilling fields, many people have committed themselves to pray and make a place for God in our community and nation. Even if we are not ready to admit it, He has never left us and chooses to remain amongst His people and bless them regardless of whether or not He is accepted. Throughout Scripture He was willing to fight for the entirety of His people based on the action and faithfulness of just a few. As our nation continues to sever ties with God, His passion and heart to bless us is as strong today as is was with our forefathers.
The prophet Ezekiel was one who heard directly from the Lord and wrote what he was told. In chapter 34 the Lord was referring to His people as sheep – a common analogy found in Scripture. This time there was emphasis placed on the people responsible for leading God’s people, or “shepherds.” – a faithful few. What I want you to hear is the true heart of God shining through and His desire to bless His people and not take away from them. Although this was written long ago and is part of the Old Testament, when we see “house of Israel”, it can be applied to us today. That is part of what was accomplished by Christ on the cross: equal access to God for everyone!
“I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.” Ezekiel 34:26-31
Could it be that the sole purpose of the Pioneer was to deliver that food? To protect the people of our community from becoming “victims of famine in the land” and actually making us “secure in our land”. Could the faithful among us have played a role in ushering in the physical presence of God which prompted Him to pour out “showers of blessing”?
You may think it ridiculous that I’m drawing any correlation between a massive man-made structure and the Almighty God, but I happen to believe that His fingerprints are everywhere! I don’t think it’s a stretch at all that God would use a vessel so large that it’s impossible to ignore and place it directly in front of our line of vision every day to get our attention. I don’t believe our reactions shocked Him at all. As they often do, they range from acceptance to distain and anywhere in between; but at the end of the day, you can’t ignore He’s there. I can hear them now:
“There’s no place for that here!”
“It’s old and antiquated and we have better ways of doing things now!”
“I don’t agree with it at all, but there is a majestic quality about it.”
“I’m so used to it now; I hardly recognize it’s there.”
“It’s become part of the landscape, so it’s lost its luster.”
“You mean that big thing was in fact the source of the blessing? I don’t believe it!”
In the case of the Polar Pioneer, it’s moved on, and that’s where our analogy must end. God will never leave. When He takes up residence, it’s for the duration. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking we know how God operates and explaining away His provision as “human kindness” or replacing God’s love for His people with our own version so we can feel good and get the credit. If you look closely at the words God spoke through Ezekiel, they implicitly express that our future depends on God and our resources are directly tied to His hand of blessing. As the Pioneer makes its way back to its permanent drilling grounds, its destiny is certain. The resources it’s seeking will eventually be gone. That’s what happens to the things created by man. Even though you may not understand everything about God, or even find some of what He does as offensive, if you’re willing to let him within the safety of your harbor, the well He draws from will never run dry.