The great poet Samuel Coleridge wrote a poem entitled The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the poem a ship is being followed by an Albatross, one of the great birds of the sea with a wingspan of up to twelve feet. They live on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. In the ancient world it was widely regarded as a good omen for a ship to be followed by an Albatross. However, in Coleridge’s classic poem one of the sailors shoots the Albatross with a crossbow and kills it, bringing sure doom to the voyage. The sailor who shot the bird is made to wear the dead Albatross around his neck. This is where we get the common saying that someone is wearing guilt or shame “like an albatross around their neck.”
It is a helpful image because sometimes we do fall into the trap of thinking that God has laid an albatross of guilt around our neck. He is somehow “against” us. He is forcing us to carry some huge burden. Perhaps we have a mental picture of an angry God who is just waiting for us to slip up so that he can say “I gotcha.” We often live under a cloud of internal condemnation and carry the weight of guilt and fear like an albatross around our neck. However, the Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that all the promises of God are “yes” in Jesus Christ. God is for us. Brothers and sisters, God is for you! He stands with you this day and His word for you is always “yes.”
So, you may ask, what about all the times when God (or God’s Word) says “No” to us. Isn’t that the “No” of God? It is precisely here that we have to listen to God’s “no” more carefully. When God says “No” we must always listen carefully to the hidden “yes” behind every NO of God. In other words, God only says “No” because He is standing with us and longs for our deepest joy in fellowship with him and others. Most of what we want God to say “yes” to are things which bring isolation and destruction to us. God does not say “no” to crush our joy. He says “No” because that is the deeper “yes” to our greater joy.
You may feel like you have “shot the albatross” in your life. You have killed the very thing which was to bring you a blessing and now you must bear that guilt and carry that shame for the rest of your life. But, today, hear the Yes of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, every sin has been paid for; every closed door flung wide open; every empty table filled with his abundance; every grave prepared for resurrection; every demon cast into the swine and sent over the hill; every broken wall has been rebuilt; every crushed dream has been renewed; every crooked way has been made straight; every sunset of despair has been turned into a sunrise of hope! It is true that we do not yet see all of this. We still await the final consummation. But, in Jesus Christ it is already breaking in! Satan is being crushed under our feet. The joy of the gospel is breaking upon us. The dead albatross is rising from our neck and taking flight to, once again, bring a blessing, not a curse. Today, may you hear afresh the “Yes” of God in Jesus Christ.