In January 1999 the North Atlantic commercial fishing industry saw a deadly string of accidents. In a 13-day span, the Cape Fear, the Adriatic, and the Beth Dee Bob were lost at sea off the coast of New Jersey. In all, 10 men died, five never to be found.
Commercial fishing is widely known to be a dangerous way to make a living. But even in a profession known for its hazards, three ships lost in such a short period of time is extraordinarily rare, particularly when all three were from the same docks.
Investigations revealed the following facts about the three separate tragedies:
- None involved a hull breach.
- All three ships were piloted by veteran captains with 10 years or more in the wheelhouse.
- All three ships were near the end of their journey, less than 15 miles from home.
So what happened?
Two of the three ships were carrying too much weight, and one was carrying its weight improperly.
Commercial vessels on the water in early January are mostly clam boats, as were the Cape Fear, the Adriatic, and the Beth Dee Bob. A commercial clam trap is 3' x 3' x 4' and weighs 300 pounds empty. Laden with quahogs, they weigh in at between 1 and 1.5 tons apiece! The Cape Fear and the Adriatic each had 10 extra traps on board. That's 10-15 tons of excess weight!
Interviewers later asked other boat captains who fished these waters the following question: Why would a veteran boat captain completely ignore the papers on his boat and attempt to carry 10-15 tons more than was safe? Time after time, the answer came in the form of a quizzical look and a shrug. Simply put, the behavior was common practice.
These captains didn't perceive themselves to be in danger. They were simply doing what was normal in their industry.
Regrettably, commercial fishermen aren't the only ones who tend to carry too much. Have you noticed? Pastors and church workers do the same thing. In our "industry," workaholism is normal. It's normal for a pastor to never turn his phone off, always be on call, and never take a Sabbath day. And we don't perceive ourselves to be in danger.
Normal or not, however, this behavior is dangerous. We have, in large part, ignored the paperwork on our souls. It's an easy pattern to slip into. After all, in our culture, busyness is a virtue!
When you run into someone you haven't seen in a while and they ask how you're doing, how do you respond? More than likely, you say something like this: "Busy. Just super busy. Life has been really crazy lately."
Then the person who asked the question responds in kind. "Oh, yeah. Me too. I've been slammed lately."
Ever have someone try to one-up you on the busyness scale? It happens all the time. Why? Because busyness confers importance. No one would ever say, "What have I been up to? Nothing. I've just been sitting around with my feet up. How about you?" It would be socially unacceptable. A pastor who responded that way might be thought of as lazy, which is shameful and unacceptable to us. So, we stay busy. And we cast aside the commandment God has given us: to rest regularly.
Pastors are no different from other Christians in terms of our calling to keep the Bible's commandments. If anything, we are even more accountable. No one would ever use a position in ministry to excuse the violation of a commandment.