Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” is a wonderful story of modern man. Although the story takes place in an underdeveloped Cuban fishing village over a half a century ago, the struggle of a man becoming a hero, enjoying internal satisfaction over monetary reward, is a story to which we all can aspire.
Santiago, an old fisherman, had gone nearly three months without catching a fish. Others spoke of his demise behind his back, and he knew it, though he paid them no mind. He was a fisherman – and he would continue to fish no matter what others may say. That was his lot in life and he enjoyed it. Like King Solomon’s admonition of wisdom, Santiago found satisfaction in his toilsome labor during the few days of the life God has given him… [he was wise enough] to accept his lot in life and be happy in his work – for this is a gift of God .
Santiago refused to be haunted by his past, both his failures and especially his successes. Living up to memories can be a daunting thing and recapturing the elation of earlier victories becomes more and more unlikely as time further separates us from the glory days. Like Santiago, whose old and overly- repaired sail “looked like the flag of permanent defeat,” we are often overwhelmed, discouraged, and tired.
But one day, like Santiago, we rise up early in the morning with enthusiasm and valor, the source of which we cannot explain, and set sail for our greatest victory yet!
You may be setting out on that journey now.
You may have been tired, exhausted, and weary of pessimists. But you won’t give up. Why? Because you, like St. Paul continue to earnestly proclaim, to this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Santiago fought for 3 days and nights until the great marlin finally gave into his steady determination. He tied the giant carcass to the side of his small boat and headed home with his prize. On the way back, after the battle was over (or so we thought) a new war raged as sharks began to attack his prize, carving away his profit with every bite of flesh they tore away. At first Santiago would calculate in his head how much money he was losing by estimating the pounds of meat being torn away from the fish. Soon, however, a greater fear emerged. He may not make it back it all. Or even worse yet, he may make it back, but without the fish. He can’t return without his trophy! Not after what he’s been through! After all, can a hero really be a hero if no one knows about his victory?
When it was all over and the crowd had gathered around his skiff to gawk at the nose and tail attached only by a stripped skeleton, Santiago had collapsed with exhaustion in his shack, having lost all of his profits – there was no meat left to sell. We still smile though. We smile with admiration and respect for the hero, but mostly for the great relief we feel now that others knew of his victory. He succeeded after all. Oh sure, he made no money, but that wasn’t the point. It never was. He had won – and that was all that mattered. The prize was the victory itself, not the reward, not the spoils, not the money.
It’s not about the money; it’s about the meaning!
We read the last few pages of the book with a lump in our throat, thinking that we would give anything if we could just pull off something like that ourselves. We don’t give a thought about the money; we want the meaning. We want the personal glory for overcoming insurmountable odds and defeating every enemy, especially the unexpected ones like the sharks, whatever they may look like today.
Your sharks might take your money but they’ll never take your meaning. Don’t give up. See to it that you fulfill whatever cause God has given you.
NEXT WEEK: “COURAGE: Fuel from the fire of failure”