When you're ready for change, follow Jesus Christ

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When I was younger, my family spent a lot of time on Jekyll Island.

One of the stories I remember hearing in those days was about a man named Harry Slicer. He had been a successful businessman who decided that he would leave the corporate life and move to the coast. He sold his business and acquired a shrimp boat, happily trading his three-piece-suit for overalls and a pair of rubber boots.

One day the news came that Slicer and his boat had been lost in a terrible storm, and his body was never found. As time went on, however, rumors began to surface: Harry Slicer was not dead, but alive and well, and working on the Alaska pipeline. Or, Harry Slicer had made his way to South America and was mining for gold.

There were several variations, but all involved some new life that Slicer had created for himself, and the whole thing sounded wild and romantic. Who doesn’t dream from time to time of just chucking everything and starting over?

There is something inside the human heart that longs for life to be different. So people pack up and move, like Harry Slicer, figuring “changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,” as the song goes. Or they boot out the old spouse and get a new one, assuming the other person is the obstacle to happiness. This impulse is also what fuels the never-ending stream of self-help books and videos, all promising that we can re-invent ourselves.

The problem is not one of geography or careers or life partners, as though a new setting and a new job and a new sidekick will fix things. And while the promoters of self-help materials have correctly diagnosed what needs to be fixed, their prescription is flawed.

If a really reliable self-help manual existed, would there be any continuing demand for new ones?

Our longing for a new life is genuine, but we stubbornly fail to acknowledge that we cannot make the real and lasting change in ourselves that we need.

The good news, however, is that there is One who freely offers us that new life. As Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold! all things are made new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When you’re truly ready for change, don’t follow Harry Slicer; follow Jesus Christ.


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Cap'n Pete
Cap'n Pete 07/27/16 - 04:28 pm
Harry Slicer

Rev Ed,

Next time you offer the Harry Slicer story, here are some facts that will change your hook from creative nonfiction to nonfiction. ;-}

There was no "terrible storm" that you mention. Harry went fishing in the fog that morning, something he did regularly. It was not a difficult thing to do. All you had to do was leave the Jekyll dock and head south, keeping the shore in view and follow it around the south end of the island until your were heading north.

As a young fisherman in those days, I kept a journal. The first time I saw Harry do that I commented in my entry for that day that, "Harry has no respect for the sea."

The next spring when GA opened its beaches to shrimping, a boat snagged Harry's raggedy old single-rigged vessel. Shortly after, a man called Captain Slim took his boat out to the beach and dragged the sunken boat into Cumberland Sound where she settled back down to the bottom again.

Harry's son was one of the people aboard Captain Slim's boat that day. Harry's wife could claim no insurance without proof that he was dead, so the purpose of the recovery was obvious. The diver went overboard to investigate.

There were other fishermen who worked out of Brunswick aboard that day, even though Harry wasn't a "real fisherman." He did it as a hobby, and once a mile or so from the beach he would tie the steering wheel down and drag his net in circles while he read in a lawn chair on the aft deck. But he was a kind man and made everyone he spoke with feel good about themselves. I still remember the collective gasp when the diver surfaced with a muddy skull in his hand.

Unfortunately for Harry's family, it belonged to a loggerhead turtle that must have gotten trapped inside the hull.

I never saw Harry wear overalls. He did wear once-white deck boots covered with black grease from the nastiest-looking engine room I've ever seen in my forty-year-plus career as a commercial fisherman. A career that began the day I agreed to buy Harry's other larger near-derelict shrimpboat on contract. But that's my story, not Harry's.

Cap'n Pete

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