Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Eddystone Light

I've always been fascinated by lighthouses, ships, and the sea, perhaps because much of my early life was spent on the waters of the Inside Passage of Alaska.

When I was in grade school, we used to sing a fun song about the Eddystone Light in music class.
The Eddystone Light Courtesy
While there are several versions, the lyrics I remember are these:

O my father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
And he married a mermaid one fine night.
Out of this union there came three--
A porpoise and a porgy and the third was me.

Yo, ho, ho! The wind blows free!
O for the life on the rolling sea!

It was a sea shanty, a work song sung by sailors on ships during the age of sail. Shanties were used to keep rhythm during work and make it more enjoyable. The lyrics and melody were not very sophisticated, but they often told of a sailor's life. The song went on for many verses, usually chanted by a leader, and the rest of the sailors would join in on the chorus.

A few years ago, this true story about the Eddystone Light caught my attention because it reminded me of that grade school song.

The southwest coast of England is very rocky, and terrible storms often blow up. Several lighthouses mark the rocks so ships won't hit them and sink. One of these lighthouses is the Eddystone Light. It stands on a rock 14 miles out from land off the coast of Plymouth. At high tide water covers the rock completely, making it very hazardous to ships.

The first tower built on Eddystone Rock was beautiful to look at with its fancy tower. The builder was very proud of his work. He would call out from the balcony: 

"Blow, O winds! Rise, O ocean! Break forth, ye elements, and try my work!"

First Eddystone Tower
One night a terrible storm blew up. The wind whipped the tower. The waves beat against it. The fancy tower toppled over into the sea, killing its builder and all who were in it.

The builder had not anchored the foundation deep enough to stand the test of the storm.

Years later, another man build a new tower on Eddystone Rock. He carefully built a solid foundation in solid rock and anchored the lighthouse firmly to it. Instead of boastful words, he carved on it these words from Psalm 127:1:

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

That lighthouse still stands and has become a model for many lighthouse towers built later.

That reminds me of a story Jesus told about two men who decided to build houses. One man wisely dug down deep until he reached bedrock to build his foundation. The other foolishly built his house on a sandy lot. His house looked much like the first man's, but under his house, where no one could see, there was no rock foundation, only sand. When a fierce storm arose, the house built on the sand was destroyed.

Jesus told his followers, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.... But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand" (Matthew 7:24, 26, NIV).

Are you building sand castles or anchoring your life to the solid Rock, Christ Jesus? I want to be like the wise man, don't you? 

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  1. I've seen photos of this lighthouse and have been to Plymouth, England. I went inside the lighthouse on shore, so 'I can imagine what it would be like to have a tower topple. A great object lesson illustrating Scripture.

  2. I'd love to see it in person! Thanks for sharing.