The Black Dog
It seems as if the black dog is the disease of our time. It may be the biggest challenge of our era. Some say that the animal reflects the signs of our time.
Others believe that we are addicted to the dark and pain. If you have been stranded on Golgotha for weeks or even years, not being aware of the Manger and not knowing about the empty grave, you get to know the bite of the dark quite well.
With a drivelling jaw snapping, men working at sea remain steady in his vision. Statistics show frightening figures about seamen suffering from depression and mental health problems. The pressure on board is huge. Ships that had crews of more than forty men previously, now do the same work with twenty men. Previously they had a few days in a harbour to off-load and load, but also to rest their weary souls, ships now turnaround within hours.
Ben is one such a man on board the NNC DAMION*. It transports palm oil and is en route to Lagos in West Africa. The ship has a crew of 22 men. Eleven are from the Philippines, six are from Russia and five are from India. André visits them in the Cape Town harbour and meets Ben.
Ben is forty years young. He explains about the black dog that manifests as a wild heartbeat and fear that grips you like an angry river. Once engulfed in the white waters, it takes you to dark places. But, when you end up in the maelstrom, it overwhelms you, with your work, your family and everything else... Once there, you turn over and over and over. It becomes your existence and your survival. It is Golgotha in the worst degree.
Ben is a Christian and André’s visit is like giving him a moment's rest against the pull of the stream. They talk about trust and peace, peace that only God can provide. They talk about peace in spite of Golgotha. They talk about peace, because he knows about the open grave.
So many times our visits to ships are only this - an island to provide rest within an angry river. It gives pause, a moment of rest for each that needs it.