There was once a sailor, alone at sea on a small boat, who lost his ship during a storm. He survived by making a raft from some rescued timbers, eating fish he caught in the sea, and drinking the morning’s dew. But his diet was too meager, his despair too complete, for this mode of life to suffice him for long.
Fortunately, the sailor encountered an island after only a few days. It couldn’t have happened a moment later, or a dead man is all that would have drifted ashore. Yet, however despondent, he was still alive, with enough strength to haul his raft onto the sand.
The island was rather small, and definitely deserted, with nothing more than a few edible plants and a stream. So his diet of fish became enlivened by leaf stew, but the crying of his heart did not stop. Even his soul was beginning to languish, until a moment came when he could withstand it no longer.
Standing up from his bed of grass under a clear stream of moonlight, after several weeks of watching the sky change from blue to black without any hope of rescue, he cried out to God, “My Lord, Who has always meant me well, why have You cast me aside, apart from everyone and everything that I love, forgotten by Thee, without hope, without joy, without aid?”
His prayer was spoken from the depths of his soul, in notes of such horrible longing that the inmates of heaven were moved to tears. So they too pleaded his case, until finally an answer was given.
In true miracle fashion, just at the moment his prayer had ended, the stars began to disappear. Then the wind stopped. Then the ground fell away. All was black with not a sign of existence, save for the beating of the sailor’s own heart. That, and a voice which began to rumble in the distance:
“My dear friend, who has always had faith in Me, why do you despair? Am I not with you every day, embracing you with warmth from above, and every night revealing romantic dreams through the calm light of the moon? The stars speak to you of My grandeur, for without them the greatness of the night sky would be invisible! The breath of the wind touches your cheeks, but you fail to perceive the kiss. Too concerned with knowing My Love only in the old, familiar ways, you cannot hear the crickets recounting to you the prayer-intimacies of the night.
“You have been cast out from the world that you might find Me, and separated that you might never again suffer separation. Know Me through the sun, the moon and the stars, and you will never again be deprived of Me, since they are always with you, as am I.”
The sailor heaved a great sigh, and was regretful for his prayer, since he had expressed impatience at this strange gift that was meant to free him. So instead of pining away further, he began to write poems in the sand, watching them dissolve in the sea’s kisses, knowing that it was He who tasted their gift.
Without despair, he waited for the understanding to come that would free him from the island: for the knowledge revealed in words to sink into his heart and awaken his soul.
His songs were still more of hope than joy, however, and his knowledge more belief than knowing. But the years passed gladly, because there was always the sun’s warm reminder and the mono’s thoughtful gaze, which proved to him that God, too, was eagerly awaiting his return.
Finally, I don’t know how many years passed, he left the lonely island and found his way home. The manner in which he accomplished this may inspire some amazement, however, since no ship ever came, and the ocean remained too great to cross.
As it happened, one day the sailer found a rock during his musings, and an idea struck him. He suddenly trembled with the passion of knowing, and his soul leapt with such force that it nearly rent his bony frame. He picked up the rock, his hands shaking badly, and walked to a tall palm tree standing in the middle of the island. On it, in handwriting hardly legible – he had become so weak – he scribbled a few simple letters: letters which were like a magic incantation, and which carried him instantly to the place he had yearned for all those years.
You see, I visited that palm tree, after hearing of his story from a lost fisherman who’d found him just before he died. He said that the sailor had died happy, fulfilled, joyous – and no longer lost. For on that palm tree he had written this simple word: “Home”.