"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 6: 19-20)
This past week, we learned that a friend through our involvement with Marriage Encounter is in hospice. Jerry and his wife Nancy have served with us several times as a facilitating team, and this news was very hard. This Scripture verse became especially significant to me while I prayed for Jerry, Nancy, and their family. Anyone who met Jerry understood that he had a great passion for fishing. Jerry said that when he was out in his boat on the beautiful lake, he felt especially close to God, and would often use that time for intimate, quiet moments alone with the Lord in prayer.
The night I heard this news, I had a dream that we were going to visit them. At one point in the dream, Jerry took us out on his boat. The water was very clear, and he reached down, pulling up an old anchor. He examined it closely, and showing it to us, said, "This is a very valuable anchor."
I awoke from the dream with those words still very vivid in my mind, and lay in bed awhile thinking of their meaning. I was reminded of something a speaker at our Lenten retreat had said a couple of weeks earlier: The anchor is one of the most ancient of Christian symbols, and was found in the Roman catacombs. The anchor was a symbol of safety in navigation, but the Christians—by adopting the anchor as a symbol of hope—gave it a new significance: Christ is the unfailing hope for all those who believe in Him, and we look forward to eternal safety with Him one day in God's Kingdom. For believers, hope is not wishful thinking or mere optimism, but trust in the sure promises of God.
Our Marriage Encounter director, Mary, went to see Jerry this past weekend. She said that he is filled with peace. His wife, Nancy, told her that when anyone comes to see him, he evangelizes in his kind, quiet way. Jerry, just like the first fishermen Jesus called, has been following Him and telling others of the hope he has. He is being a "fisher of men," even now, from his hospice bed.
Jerry shared with Mary his thankfulness that he had participated in his church's mission trip to Haiti, last March, rather than postponing it until this year. Jerry was diagnosed the following month, and he feels that was God's timing. If he hadn't gone when he did, he would not have had that experience. He stressed how important it is to not put things off. Jerry is witnessing to the importance of saying "yes" to opportunities when God places them before you, and not saving them "for later." He is telling us to jump on the boat and take the ride when the moment arrives, instead of waiting for perfect wind.
I've been reflecting on all of this, and on my dream—how the boat could be taken as our lives on the journey of life, usually sailing on calm waters, but sometimes being unexpectedly caught up in furious storms and sudden squalls, with the waves crashing around us. But if we have the Lord in the boat with us, and we trust in Him, we can "Be not afraid." We might sometimes feel like Jesus is asleep in our boat, when things seem out of control, but be sure that He is there (see Matthew 8: 24-27).
Our destination is the eternal shoreline where we drop anchor to land safely—our everlasting home. The chain that holds our anchor of hope is the faith we have in God, and His trustworthy promises.
St. Ambrose surely had all of this in mind when he wrote, "As the anchor thrown from a ship prevents this from being borne about, but holds it securely, so faith, strengthened by hope..."
Yes indeed, as Jerry said in my dream, "this anchor is very valuable."