Dismantle the Ships

Some 600 Spanish ships arrived on the coast of present-day Veracruz, Mexico, led by Cortes. Legends tell the story of the explorer ordering the ships to be burned as a statement of “There’s no turning back!” to the settlers. It is a powerful illustration that is frequently used to describe how when we accept Christ we burn the things that could lead us back to sin and brokenness within our relationship with God.

But what scholars believe actually happened was that Cortes had the people dismantle the ships with the purpose of using the materials from them to settle into a new land and life[1].

While the burning of the ships sounds like a more dramatic moment, the dismantling actually creates a more powerful illustration.

The dismantling of the ships was still the process of people destroying the way back to their old lives and starting afresh. But mixed into this illustration is the repurposing of the parts taken from the old and seeing them for a new use. 

In 2 Corinthians 5: 17-18a Paul teaches about our old selves being gone and the new creation we are in Christ. He explains this fresh start as being reconciled to God through the work of Christ:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … 

Our old selves need to be meticulously dismantled by God. As He dismantles our old ways, we are to continually look forward, not backward, as God’s new creation.

Scripture continues this teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:18b-19 that says that when we are reconciled to Him we are not only a new creation, but we are also tasked with being His ambassadors—someone sent to help others become reconciled to God:

…and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Christ’s dismantling our old self gives us opportunities to consider how battles over our former ways and sin were won through Christ’s work in our lives.

Once these lessons are seen, they can be used to strengthen us in our walk with Christ. And we can also search for opportunities for the lessons to be used in the lives of others—our friends, neighbors, or even strangers.

In this quote from The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, she explains the purpose of our pasts:

This is what the past is for!
Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives
is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.

Like the pieces of the settlers’ ships were reused to start a new life, our past failures and struggles can be repurposed for God’s future plans.

[1] Reynolds, Winston A. “The Burning Ships of Hernán Cortés.” Hispania, vol. 42, no. 3, 1959, pp. 317–324. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/335707. Accessed 28 Jan. 2020.





in the Quiver

13 thoughts on “Dismantle the Ships

  1. I love this analogy. At first, I was cheering on the idea of burning the ship — and then you explained the purpose of dismantling. It takes longer and is more arduous, but the process isn’t for our benefit alone, but as you say, for others too. Amen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Marcy, I was encouraged after reading your article. I haven’t thought of this passage in a while: Isaiah 61:3 says, “beauty for ashes… that He may be glorified.”
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Robert, I am thankful the post was encouraging to you. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing those pertinent Scriptures.


  3. Well said Ms. Marcy. By allowing God to dismantle and repurpose our lives (I love this thought by the way), we give ourselves to Him for use in whatever way He chooses. I really enjoyed the “repurposed” part of your message. By using my sinful, sordid past, God allows me to maintain credibility with the very people He wants me to reach. My example. The best way for me to demonstrate the power God has to change lives is to show what He’s done in my life to the people whom I’ve shared my sin-life with. If they see the change in me, then they’ll see God’s power is real and it (I pray) gives them hope to see beyond “the now.” Well done ma’am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you JD. You are exactly right, a changed life is a strong testament of what God can do. I’m thankful for His work in my life and pray I never get so comfortable in my faith that I forget what life was like without Him.
      I appreciate your faithfulness to read and comment. It’s encouraging to me.


  4. To think of how those timbers were used is one powerful perspective. Not only did they serve the purpose of rebuilding, they served as remembrance. I can only imagine the powerful testimonies shared by passengers from those ships. But none so powerful as the miracle of a life transformed by Christ. Well said, Marcy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Charla! It is a powerful illustration and the power of Christ to transform our lives is surely something to remember.


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