Jesus Was a Sailor

March 12, 2008 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind

(Words by Leonard Cohen from the poem/song “Suzanne” 1966)

News of Leonard Cohen being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10th clicked in my mind as a well deserved award for him. In such cases, I tend to dwell and reflect on the honouree. My thoughts took me back to the late sixties and how his, now classic, song “Suzanne,” effected me.

The music of the sixties was exciting. My youthful preference was for upbeat songs from different genres. Experiencing music and its listeners evolve over the next twenty years was a great diversion for me. I remember “Suzanne” being one of the first songs I came to appreciate for, what I considered artistic merit. The lilting tempo and narrow range of the song, along with Cohen’s voice, captivated me. It was refreshingly different. The words awoke me to the potential for lyrics to be much more than trivial. I marvelled that Jesus would be a topic in other than a gospel song and was sure this must be blasphemous, which appealed to the young rebel in me. I contemplated what all the words to “Suzanne” meant. I most often pondered the lyrics used above, hoping to gain insight into religion in general and Jesus in particular.

Time marches on and, as the apostle Paul puts it in 1Corinthians, “When I became a man, I put away childish things,” or as Peter, Paul and Mary sang in “Puff the Magic Dragon”, “Painted wings and giants rings make way for other toys.” In short, life came up with more demanding adult pursuits and music became more entertainment than inspiration. However, from time to time when I heard the song, I found myself analysing the Jesus verse to “Suzanne”. Looking back today, I see this was a nascent step on my spiritual journey. That journey would get underway in a serious manner many years later, but this seemingly insignificant happening from my youth, can now be recognised as an early part of a whole that is still developing.

Way back in my twenties, the words, “And when he knew for certain/ Only drowning men could see him/ He said ‘All men will be sailors then/ Until the sea shall free them'” resonated in my inner being as truth. Wow, we are all screwed up, man. And this cat Jesus (who ever he may be…) says things can be fixed. There’s a way! We’re capable, man! Even though I didn’t realise it then, I took the lines to heart, “And you want to travel with him / And you want to travel blind/ And you think maybe you’ll trust him/ For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.” Jesus had always been a person of interest to me, yet this unwittingly marked a deepening of my relationship with the Spirit. I was so blind, I didn’t know I was following anything; didn’t know I was on a journey. It would be many years later until my journey to know and understand Jesus began in earnest. I knew it wasn’t adequate to unquestioningly follow, or “travel blind” anymore. I had to become a sailor and risk drowning.

I suppose that is the theme of any ministry that I consider myself undertaking; to help people not to travel blind, to risk drowning. Get to know the Spirit for yourself. Be a sailor and risk drowning in the vast ocean of the Creator’s being and you will discover that the sea shall free you. Leonard, you are a prophet.

Do you have any popular songs that have had spiritual meaning/inspiration for you? Tell us about them.


Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

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