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Time & Tide Waits For No One

Chunosuke Macyuama was a Japanese sailor who, in 1784, along with 43 other crewmen, headed for a Pacific Island in search of the buried treasure allegedly on it. However, during the trip, the storm chased their junk on the coral reef, and there was no hope of repairing it. The damage was too great. The crew failed to find the source of fresh water, and there was not enough food; living for some time on the scarce quantities of crabs and coconuts, they started to die of dehydration and starvation in a row.

Before he died, Macouma wrote a message on a thin crest of coconut wood, threw it into a bottle, threw a bottle into the ocean and died.

151 years later, in 1935, a seafood collector found a bottle on the coast of Japan.

I think the reason why this story is so amazing is that the bottle, in its own time, reached its intended destination. No matter how scattered we may be or how much of a wild child we profess to be, no one enjoys seeing things unfinished. We like to see tasks crossed off the list, jobs done, the wall painted, the squeaky door repaired, the collection completed, the words unsaid finally spoken or whatever it is in our lives that needs to be finished to reach the desired destination. Even though the message was 151 years too late, the bottle reached the sands it was prayed to have reached.

Here is the encouragement I found in the story. Most of us have a “message” we struggle with getting out. We know what it is we are supposed to say to a group, a loved one, a friend or a relative. We never throw it out there because of fear. The fear of rejection or of our heartbeat never meeting theirs in what we are trying to say. We choose to let our message die in isolation rather than take the risk of throwing it to the waves of time. The “what ifs” keep us holding in what we should be holding out. I say that because as I look back down the beach of my island, next to the long line of footprints, the beach gleams from the reflections of half buried message bottles that I lacked the courage to throw. I think I tried walking fast to get away from them or even prayed the ebbing tide would sweep over them and drag them out to sea for me if nothing else but to ensure I could never see their glittering testimony to my accepted fears over the thrill of taking the risk of throwing.

One day, something happened to me. I am not sure exactly what the catalyst for the change was entirely, but something changed. Maybe it was the glittering trail of un-thrown messages or perhaps it was the reality of the uncertainty of time left on the island. Whatever it was, something within me changed and I chose another option to dropping the bottle in the sand. I looked out onto the horizon and stared as deeply as I could at the point where the ocean meets sky and I thought of how badly I wanted the message I held to get out. My hand tightened around the bottle, and I found myself planting my feet and winding back my arm to throw the bottle deep into the surging tide.

The voice of pessimistic reality screamed in my ear that the throw was such a waste of effort and time, but the gleam caught in the corner of my eye from a beach full of half buried bottles confirmed in my mind that the true waste of effort and time was a beach littered with un-taken throws. I discovered the thrill of feeling the bottle slip from my fingertips as I threw it felt so much more rewarding than the sound of it hitting the sand by my feet.

So, if the thrill of hope and the unknown is so much better than the comfort of what we do know, why are our beaches full of un-thrown bottles and forsaken messages? Fear plays a big part in this, but so does our dogmatic need to have the ultimate control in the message of both its arrival and in the response of its desired recipient.

Here is what I have come to know. You cannot control the arrival time of your “message” being received. Not to an individual or to a planet of individuals, but don’t die with the bottle in your hand. Risk the throw and give it hope. If your “message” comes from a place of love, it WILL reach its destination because love never fails. The thing about living on an island is that sooner or later, the paths we choose cross and re-cross like the lines of a figure skater. We will come across the bottles we failed to throw in the past and even discover that the tide has brought back some of our earlier thrown messages. Chances not taken, words not said, opportunities passed upon, and life not lived to our best potential.

The best part about re-approaching recognized missed out on opportunities to throw is that now I discover I have the hope and faith it takes to now throw those messages out to the sea. The distance of my past beach combing and the understanding that the tide and time are outside of my control gives me hope that the message I now choose to throw will reach the intended receiver. Sometimes the person meant to receive the message is not the person I intend it to be. God has a way of washing the bottle up to the feet of exactly the right person at just the right time.

So, I stand now on the beach with this bottle in my hand. This message is in the bottle, and this hope and faith deep in my heart. I write this message even now to encourage me that the tides of time still work and the seemingly impossible still comes true.

What you do with your “message” is your choice, but please step back while I throw.

Climbing with you,


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