Epiphany came to 37-year-old British cabinet-maker Edward Mote one morning in 1834. Fresh words circled his mind, repeating a chorus. Finally they tumbled out and by evening he had penned most of the hymn, The Solid Rock. When we sang his hymn at MAF’s recent Day-of-Prayer, the end of the third verse caught my eye, “…He [Jesus] then is all my hope and stay.” Hope makes sense, but what’s a “stay”?
Mote’s contemporaries understood “stays” the way we appreciate seat belts. Stays are the strong ropes that hold a boat’s mast upright to keep it from tipping forward or backward. Shrouds are special stays on each side of the mast that keep it from falling left or right.
But stays and shrouds provide service beyond holding the mast in position. For example, they prevent the mast from springing like a shaken fishing pole as the boat pitches and rolls. They also form triangles made up of the mast, the deck and the stay itself. The triangles’ three-sided shape neither bends, folds, nor collapses, instead it forms a solid base. Without stays sails fall in a useless heap on the deck, unable to catch the wind or pass its energy onto the boat. A ship would bob about powerless to proceed on any chosen course, vulnerable to every storm, wave, and reef.
Today, relying on the same principle, MAF aircraft use struts to brace long wings, cantilevered out from the fuselage. The triangle formed by wing, fuselage, and strut provides the strength to lift thousands of pounds, miles into the sky. Without struts we couldn’t takeoff because our wings would sag low with heavy fuel in the tanks. If we could somehow get into the air, the wings would smack together overhead as they tried to take the aircraft’s weight, dashing us to hard earth below.
Likewise, without the strong three-part base of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we buckle and crash on sinking sand. But our stay, Jesus, holds us upright, makes us unshakeable in storms, and propels us through life. The solid rock that Daniel saw filling the whole earth, and Edward Mote sang about, also lifts us up on eagles’ wings. Amazing what God can do with simple shapes.