To flounder is (1) to struggle or move with difficulty, as in mud; or (2) to behave awkwardly or make mistakes. One who flounders does not fail completely but merely struggles. To founder is (1) to cave in, (2) to sink below the water, (3) to fail utterly, or (4) to go lame. While to flounder is merely to struggle, foundering usually involves utter failure.
A ship can flounder - struggle - and still make it safely to shore to get repairs. A ship that has foundered has sunk entirely, and the only hope for it is salvage. A good captain will not allow his ship to continue to flounder or foundering will be the eventual result.
This past May, my husband took me to Door County (the "thumb" part of Wisconsin and very beautiful) for Mother's Day weekend. Mother's Day is difficult for me these past years, and he thought a distraction was in order. Every year, the shipyards in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin open for one day to the public. Since we were going to be in town, of course we had to go.
One of the things they do there in Sturgeon Bay is to do maintenance and repairs for large ships, to allow them to continue to haul ore safely or whatever.
Those ships are huge, and to my eyes, must weigh a zillion pounds. You may have seen them in action on one of the Great Lakes.
You don't just pull them out of the water like you do your fishing boat. Instead, they use a dry dock like this:
One end is open to the Bay, and the ship floats right in. There are supports there that the ship settles into. Once it's safely in place, the water is pumped out, and there the ship is, all dry and ready to be worked on. When the repairs have been made, and the ship is sea worthy again, the dock is flooded, and the ship floats back out into the Bay and from there into Lake Michigan.
Here is someone else's picture, that shows how it works a little better:
A ship is not designed to be in dry dock. It's designed to be out there working on the Great Lakes or the oceans. Yet, those days out of the water are absolutely essential or the ship might wind up under the water instead of on top of it.
We are not designed to be in dry dock. As believers, we are meant to be in service, working for the good of God's kingdom, doing the things that God means for us to do. And, most of the time, if you stay in God's word and connected to Jesus and other believers, that's the way it is. Every life has storms, and with God's help, we weather them just fine. Most of the time, at least.
My vacations lately have had connections to ore boats, for whatever reason. In Two Harbors, MN, we saw the Presque Isle being loaded with ore. And, of course, as I stood there watching, I've got "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" running through my head.
If you remember the song, the ship sunk in Lake Superior and all 29 men on board lost their lives. It may even have been right there at Two Harbors before leaving "fully loaded for Cleveland." That ship foundered. Could some time in dry dock have prevented it splitting up? Who knows?
My thought is - there will be storms. There will be waves that try to sweep over us. Some of that is Satan coming against us, and some is just life. With God's help, we weather them most of the time.
Lately, though, I've been floundering. Not foundering, sinking entirely - but floundering - struggling. Everybody struggles, including believers. Sometimes we struggle with life, and sometimes we struggle with God Himself (remember Jacob?). The struggles with God grow us and make us stronger. The struggles with life make us stronger, too. Most of the time.
Sometimes the floundering feels more like drowning, and no matter how often we remind ourselves to stand on the solid rock, the waves keep coming and knock our feet out from under us. And there we are again, treading water, trying to keep our heads up. Floundering.
In church yesterday, I realized that's what I've been doing, and my mind drifted back (while I should have been listening to the sermon) to this spring and those dry docks. I knew that I needed for God to bring me in to a safe dock, where I could settle in to His supports and have Him make me sea worthy again.
This morning, that's exactly what I prayed. "Lord, please bring me to your safe dock and scrape off my barnacles and whatever else you need to do. I want to serve you in any way you'd have me do, but I'm floundering, Lord. It feels like drowning. I think I need some time in your dry dock."
I pictured spending time alone with Him, getting refreshed - and while I certainly plan to do that, almost immediately after my prayer, He did almost the exact opposite. Seriously, the last thing I wanted to do was to spend time with other people this morning. Being an introvert by nature, I usually get refreshed by being alone. But, almost immediately after my prayer, He brought me to a group of women, and amazingly, more than half of us were going through nearly the same thing. (Not the floundering part, but what had lead to that).
And, thinking about it, it makes sense. If you are alone and drowning, what happens? You drown. It requires others to pull you out of the water. The ship in dry dock doesn't fix itself.
Instead of being alone, like I thought I needed, God brought others around me this morning - others who would understand. How amazing is that?
By holding onto others, telling my story and hearing theirs, I got my feet under me again. Maybe in dry dock terms, I settled into those supports that will hold me upright while the repairs are made.
How faithful our God is, to "dock" me so quickly.
Carry each other’s burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.