Answer God’s call to the top

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 10, 2005

“But you are a shield around me O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.” Ps. 3:3

I love history, it was one of my favorite subjects growing up. Next to ESPN and watching a University of Georgia football game, my favorite television channel is the History Channel.

During the occupation of France, there were many who fled to safe ground. French immigrants flooded into America by the thousands. Among them was the lady of this story. Because of the imminent danger of living at home, the young woman laid plans to escape to America. Money was in short supply. A simple voyage would cost an overwhelming amount due to the inflated prices that seem to follow disaster. Selling all she had, begging, borrowing and scraping, she was finally able to get enough money to purchase a fourth class passage on a steamer headed for America.

Email newsletter signup

In those days the forth class fare was much different than it is today. It was the lowest of the low. Those booking forth class passage were steerage passengers. What that meant was, they would ride in the cramped belly of the ship. There was little room for each passenger… only a few cubic feet per person. There was no privacy. The lighting was poor. There were few port holes for the passengers to look out, and even then they could only see eye level with the water. The smell was horrible. The conditions were poor and the food was pathetic. They were not served the rich, tasty food that those in first class received. What a dismal picture.

It was against the rules of the voyage for those in steerage to visit the upper decks. That was just one of the prices the passengers had to pay for the opportunity to purchase such an inexpensive fare.

The Captain of this ship was a sympathetic fellow. One by one he invited those of the steerage fare to come to the top deck and enjoy the voyage for an hour or so from a different perspective. His only requirement was they could not tell the others what he had done because his job would be in jeopardy.

One day the Captain approached our little French lady. With kindness and compassion he invited her to come up to the upper deck. “Come and see the beauties of the voyage,” he said. To his surprise the woman declined. She did not feel deserving enough to visit the upper deck. She elected to spend the remainder of the voyage in the dark dingy dungeon of the ship.

After arriving in America, as she and the others stood in the lines at the immigration office, she overheard the other steerage passengers talking about the beauties of the upper deck. She listened as they talked of the beautiful sea, and the abundant, rich, exotic and appetizing foods. They talked about the beauty of the ship. Oh, what she had missed!

This young lady had a problem. She felt that she was nothing and that she deserved nothing special in her life. She was so burdened by these feelings that she could not accept things that would bring her joy. She was so beaten down that she thought her place in life was to live on the bottom. Because of that, she could never experience the beauty around her.

There are those in the Kingdom of God who are just like this little woman. “Forth class! That’s all I’ll ever be,” they think. As we travel through this life, God is constantly calling us to the upper deck. He calls us to the top of the mountains so that we might see the beauties of His Kingdom. Some accept the invitation and find great joy in their Christian walk. Others, sad to say, think only of themselves as being forth class passengers, believing that their rightful place is in the belly of the ship cut off from everything that is lovely.

No one is asking us to be proud or arrogant. No one wants us to be self-righteous. The only thing God wants in this matter is for us to stand on the upper deck and enjoy what is better. He wants us to look down on the waves of the sea instead of into them. He wants us to see how those who experience the joy of the voyage respond to Him. He wants us to feel that we are of the first class fare, not forth class.

Maybe now I can understand why he is “the lifter up of my head.”


Marshall Murphy – Pastor, First Christian Church of Demopolis