The Parable of the Toy BoatPosted on December 28th, 2010 No comments
One of the most profound truths in Christianity can be summed up in the simple phrase “Jesus loves you”, and yet it is also one of the least understood truths. Say “Jesus loves you” to a non-Christian and they’ll often look at you with a puzzled expression on their face and respond with, “Jesus loves me? What’s that supposed to mean and why should I care if he does?” The following story may help to explain the significance of that phrase and †why it is so true. †Let’s see if it will shed light on helping us understand the significance of the Christmas story and why Jesus came to earth.
There once was a little boy who was very good at making things with his hands. These were very special and beautiful things he’d make and people all around marveled at his skill. One day he decided to make a toy boat. This wasn’t any ordinary boat however. It was a sailboat and every detail was perfect. The mast was tall and the sails and ropes were so realistic you’d think someone had found a way to shrink a real sailing ship and put it in the boy’s workroom. He spent days, weeks and even months making this boat and soon the word got around and curious townspeople came to visit and marvel at his craftsmanship. To most people it appeared completed, but he kept working on the smallest details making it just perfect. Finally, it was finished to his liking and he made it ready for the its maiden voyage and waited for just the perfect day.
Then came the special day. It was one of those days when it seemed perfect the moment he looked out the window and saw only a few cotton ball clouds in the blue sky. Today was the day when he would take his prized boat to the lake and try it out. When the townspeople saw him carrying his boat through town, everybody †stopped what they were doing and they all came to the lake to watch the launching of this beautiful toy ship. The young boy carefully set the boat in the water and grabbed the line he had secured to the bow. It floated beautifully! It was so perfect in every detail that it looked just like a real ship. A slight breeze caught the sail and the tiny ship effortlessly and silently sailed with the wind over the water. The boy let out a little more line giving the ship more freedom to move. It was a sight to behold! Everyone was so delighted they burst out in applause; everyone, that is, except for one.
There was another boy. about the same age as our little craftsman, who was envious of the work and attention he was getting. Some people are like that. Whenever someone does well at something, they don’t like it and would rather destroy their work than let them receive admiration from others. Well, he was hidden behind a bush near the shore and no one knew he was there. Since everyone’s attention was on the little boat he felt safe to do his mischief and he hurled an ugly rock at the beautiful ship. The rock sailed towards its target and squarely hit the top of the tall mast. The mast broke in two, and as it fell onto the deck it cut through the line the boy was holding onto.
A huge gasp came from the crowd. The boat began to drift away from shore! The boy ran along shore, but there were trees and brush in the way and the beautiful little boat floated faster away as the wind caught its broken sail. As it floated closer to the far side it got caught in a current and was quickly carried down the river leading out of the lake. The boy cried out and frantically tried to follow his precious ship, but to no avail. He lost sight of the beautiful boat as it was recklessly swept down the rapids, being tossed against the large rocks. All day long the boy walked along the river bank searching for his boat but it could not be found. Finally, when it became dark, he gave up the search and walked home broken hearted. He had lost his beautiful, precious little ship.
You might wonder what happened to the ship. Well, it continued on its rough journey downstream. Sometimes it would tumble over small waterfalls that totally submerged it. Many times it slammed against the rocks scraping the paint and further damaging the wood. Sometimes birds would land on it and leave their mark. Finally it became entangled in a fallen tree, laying partially submerged as sticks and logs floating downstream buffeted against it. It remained there for several weeks enduring the destruction of its beauty.
Then one day a big old dog happened to be walking along the river’s edge and he noticed this curious object in the water. He waded out and took the beautiful little boat into his mouth and brought it to shore. Instead of rescuing it though, the dog decided to start chewing on the beautiful little ship like dogs do. He chewed and chewed on the ship cracking the stern, further destroying the fine detailed craftsmanship of the vessel. Eventually, the dog became bored with the boat and carried it home.
There, the dog’s master saw this unusual object in his dog’s mouth and took it to see what it was. ìHmmm, an old broken down boat. What a wreck! Ha! A little toy boat shipwrecked on the seas of lifeî, he laughed. Then, just as he was about to throw it in the trash, he noticed that the boat had been finely crafted and he thought that just maybe this broken boat might be worth some money. He took it into town and went to the pawnshop and asked the shopkeeper how much money he’d give him for the broken boat. ìWhy this old boat isn’t worth anything. It’s beyond repair, but to show you how generous I am, I’ll give you one dollar to take it off your hands.î †And so the exchange was made and both men separated happy. You see the shopkeeper could tell that at one time this had been a very fine boat. Someone had spent a lot of time making this and he figured that even though he didn’t personally have the skill to repair it himself, perhaps someone who did posses such skill would pay a lot of money for it. So he set it in his window hoping an expert toymaker would some day see it and become interested in it. But, no one ever came by to look at it and eventually, he even forgot it was even there.
The little boy who made the boat had never forgotten his beautiful little ship. It had always remained in his heart and he dreamed that one day he would somehow, somewhere find it.
Several years later the boy, (now a young man), went on a hiking trip far away from his village. He came upon this town, way downstream. As he walked through town, he was amazed with all the different kinds of stores there were, far more than there were in his own village. Then he noticed in the corner of one of the shop’s windows was an old boat. The boy was curious and was attracted to that old beaten up boat. Somehow it even resembled his own lost boat. He assumed he must be imagining things though, because he thought he had seen his boat several times over the years, only to have been sadly mistaken. As he looked more closely at this one, he saw some detail that was familiar, so he went inside and picked up the boat to examine it further. As he held it in his hands, his heart began racing. ìThis even feels like my boat!î he silently exclaimed. After a long examination he peered into one of the windows of the captain’s quarters, and there scribbled on the tiny wall was his own name. This was his own boat that was lost! He shouted, ìI found it! I found my boat!î He looked at the shop keeper and exclaimed, ìMister, this is my boat! I made it and it was lost and I’m going to take it home!î
ìNot so fast young manî, the shop keeper cautioned. You can’t just take that boat out of here. I paid good money for that boat and you’ll have to buy it before you can take it home.î ìWell how much does it cost?î, the young man excitedly stammered. The shopkeeper saw the intense longing in his face and lied, ìThat is a very fine boat young man, and I have had a lot of toymakers from all over the world make offers for that boat. They tell me it’s worth over a thousand dollars, but since you were the one who made it, I’ll give it to you for the special price of $999.î
The boy said nothing and walked out the door. He immediately set to work to earn the money. He dug ditches, hauled rock and pulled out tree stumps. He cut wood, plowed fields and saved every penny he earned. After several months of exhausting labor he hadn’t even come close to earning that much money, so he did the unthinkable. He sold all the other toys he ever made. That did it! He went back to the shop and seeing the boat was still in the window, he went to the shopkeeper and emptied his purse on the counter. ìThere is the price you asked for the boat.î he said and he walked to the window, and carefully picked up his precious little ship. As he gently held it in his hands he said to it, ìNow you are twice mine! First I made you, and now I bought you!î And he went home and spent the rest of his life repairing that boat and restoring it back to its original, beautiful condition, until it was finally able to, once again, do what it was created to do; sail with the wind!
Perhaps you already see some analogies in this little parable. †That little boat represents us: mankind. Man was made in the image of God and because of that, God was alsolutely in love with him and was able to interact with him continually. Then man became lost in sin and was severely damaged. He became “shipwrecked” and was only a shadow of his former self. All of his descendents were born in this same condition; lost and broken, far from resembling their original creation. In our natural state that Divine image is mostly unrecognizable. Upon close examination, the one who created us, can still see His image in us . He can still see His signature verifying that we are His ultimate creation. And He is still in love with us, despite our decrepit condition of sin. That is the amazing unconditional love of God. We are on the trash heap of life and God loves us so, that He comes and pays the ultimate price to purchase us back and rescue us. We have been bought with a price. (I Cor 6:20) The price was expensive. It cost Him His †life.
And now we are twice His: first He made us, then He bought us. Now He wants to restore us to conform to His Divine image. Will you surrender to his loving control and let Him perform the ultimate “make-over” on you? Or, are you going to be content to stay in the dilapidated condition of your carnal nature and remain in the junk store window, with never again a chance to sail with the wind in your sails? This is what he created you for, and this is why He came to earth and why He paid the price to purchase you back. May you have a blessed New year as you ponder this beautiful gift He is giving to you. It’s up to you if you will receive it, or not.
“I am not afraid of storms of life, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” -Louisa May Alcott
Leave a reply