A heavy slab of solid iron is methodically inspected by the blacksmith. This dense beast, clumsy to maneuver and difficult to work with, will soon contain an intrinsic value that far exceeds its weight. The immense chunk undergoes the heat and trial of fire, where it will be molded into its final shape. The hands of the blacksmith systematically work to produce a worthy product. The tools of the blacksmith hammer away imperfections and smooth out rough edges. Bathed in fire and insistently poured into a cast, the final shape slowly begins to emerge. Long arms extend from the body of the mass. The blacksmith steps away and wipes his brow, admiring the work that took so much effort. This seemingly worthless piece of heavy iron will one day hold firm even the most unruly of ships. From the fire and the anvil came the sturdy anchor.
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Lately, I have been reading a lot about meaning. In counseling psychology, meaning takes center stage was one of the most critical aspects of our lives. In this quick survey of the topic, I would like to address the fact that meaning is apart of a need that each of us as finite human beings must possess. For life without meaning is as dangerous with a ship without the anchor.
In mainstream psychology, it is universally agreed upon that the vast majority of human life is about this pervasive quest for meaning. We desire for our lives to be meaningful. We want to contribute to something that has a meaning larger than ourselves. We desire to leave meaningful impressions on friends, family members, and even the world. Meaning, whether it be conscious or unconscious seems to find itself at the root of the vast majority of human behavior. Certainly, there is a desire in us to acquire some form of meaning that the fast-paced life of so many seems to race to find – but where is it?
Viktor Frankl (2006) pioneered a revolutionary praxis of therapy — logotherapy. Logo steaming from the Greek logos — “meaning.” Frankl presented that logotherapy is a formal method of "meaning therapy." "Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation of his life" as Frankl argues (p. 99). So, we find that as a human race we seek to find meaning. This universal quest has led many to look for meaning in meaningless places.
The journey to find something meaningful in life, or at least to numb the throb of its nag, is sought through drugs, alcohol, relationships, career advancements, money, power, and accomplishments. Each of these has a momentary soothing effective, but leave the empty void more vacant than before. Too many today turn to temporal fixes for an eternal problem. Contrary to societies opinions, the quest for meaning is found when we look outside of ourselves.
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So, to tie this all together. In the beginning, we discussed the process that the chunk of iron goes through before it becomes an anchor. It must endure the fire, the hammer, and the removal of unnecessary weight before it is ready to be fastened to the ship. But even once the anchor is firmly in place on the deck of the ship, we find that the purpose of the anchor is not achieved until the mass is tossed beneath the waves. The meaning of the anchor is only discovered when it leaves the deck of the ship. In fact, the real purpose of the anchor is only realized during the storm, adverse winds, or strong currents. The anchor is not for still, glassy waters, and the anchor will never find purpose while resting on the sun soaked deck of the boat.
Ancient mariners typically had a few different anchors that would be used differently depending on the weather, sea conditions, and seabed. Each anchor had a specific purpose for a specific set of conditions; however, at the end of the line, there was a large, heavy anchor. The anchor was reserved only for the worst of conditions and toughest of storms. Through antiquity and semantics, the anchor has come to be known as: sacram anchram solvere — the anchor of last resort.
In our own lives, too often we search to find meaning within ourselves. We invest in things and hobbies that comfort us or make us happy. We apply ourselves to education and our careers. Yet, all the while, we find that the cry for meaning runs deeper and deeper. The reason is that we are much like the anchor. Our meaning will only be discovered when we look beyond ourselves. Remember, all life on earth is sustained by a fireball that is 93 million miles away. So meaning is found not from searching ourselves but from peering beyond ourselves. Meaning comes from without, not from within. At the end of the day, once we find some level of meaning beyond ourselves, we find that this meaning is what keeps us rooted during the hard times of life.
If you find yourself today at the end of your rope, having tried all that life has to offer and still coming short, I urge you to turn to the anchor of last resort. This steadfast assurance of meaning and purpose is not found in a temporal fix but was nailed to a cross 2,000 years ago. Jesus is the anchor of last resort. In him, you will find meaning and purpose that roots you even in the toughest storms of life.
"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:19-20, ESV).
Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man's search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.