Posted in theology

I’m gonna need a bigger bookcase…

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s a riff off the famous line in the classic 1975 movie, Jaws. I was born in Providence, Rhode Island and grew up in Little Rhody. I was 14 1/2 when the movie came out, timed for Memorial Day Weekend and the blockbuster season of summer fun movies. They filmed the movie on the nearby island of Martha’s Vineyard.

A friend from high school whose family had a trawler invited me to join them for a weekend jaunt to the ‘The Vineyard’. We’d all seen Jaws of course, and like everyone else the movie scared me to death. When we got to Edgartown, one of the main towns on the island, we anchored. Immediately my friend’s teenage brothers started cannon-ball jumping from the top of the bridge into the water. I looked down at those Atlantic seal-grey waters that obscured everything underneath, and thought about the shark, filmed in that very spot, and said ‘nope.’ The filming gear was still around, including the floating platform they used to film the mechanical shark, dubbed “Bruce.” Spooky!

The line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” is embedded in American consciousness and has become iconic. For me, I cannot believe it has been 45 years since that Martha’s Vineyard summer! Where does the time go?! I remember being shy around my friend’s brothers, of seeing the sun set over the harbor, of cobblestone streets, of scrimshaw shops, of eating fresh fish for dinner. Because of the movie, I thought about death for the first time, really thought about it. Where do people go when they die?

By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.

(Genesis 3:19)

What happens after we die? It was an impenetrable question to which my 14-year-old brain had no answer. What lay ahead for that gal, only the Lord knew. As I look back over the bridge of time, I know that it has been quite a ride.

As we age, I guess in some respects we become melancholy in reminiscing about the past. I’m not fond of memories because mine tend to be sad, or filled with wistful regrets.

I returned to Martha’s Vineyard many decades later. My husband and I had our own boat by then. We lived on it for 2 years, cruising up and down the eastern seaboard and over to the Bahamas. We spent some time in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven harbors, swinging on anchor and enjoying the summer breezes. I was a 30-year-old adult by then, twice the age I was when I’d first visited.

My time living on our boat taught me that the earth is beautiful. It could not have been banged into existence because of its easily seen currents, tides, beauty, progression of the sun, moon, and stars nightly. “This couldn’t have happened by chance,” I kept thinking. “There must be a God.”

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20).

The Jesus thing, though, forgeddaboutit. Not for nothing, but that sin and blood and cross stuff was wack.

Twelve years later I was closing in on the cross but not there yet. I was still pondering the mysteries of the universe, this time, the nature of evil. I was running the local newspaper then, and there was an epic struggle for the soul of the town. Dems vs Republicans, liberals vs conservative, old ways vs influx of people with newfangled ideas. You know, it was a mini-version of the same thing we saw in the 2020 election campaign season and culminating on January 6th. Bad.

The struggle turned ugly, with the entire array of dirty tricks, hatred, bitterness, and words said. Tires were slashed, slander spread, whisper campaigns galore. Why are people so mean? I wondered. If we go to heaven when we die, what makes that place different from here, if we’re all there? It would be the same? What makes heaven, heaven?

Now it’s eighteen years later. I’ve been saved since then. My church is a wonderful place. We had a great service yesterday with truth proclaimed in a steady, strong stream for an hour and a half in music, prayer, and sermon. We had supper afterwards, and friends and I talked, laughed, enjoyed each other’s company. Our church is a generous church and it is a reading church. When we planted, all of our elders were educators either in Christian schools or public schools. We have a lot of grad students, college students, and educators. We read. Our church buys boxes of books and gives them to us. We have book clubs sprinkled over two counties of our congregants. I SO appreciate their wisdom in making sure they recommend good material and provide the means to get good books to us!

One of the boxes of books they bought was John Piper’s new magnum opus, Providence. I eagerly went to the book room and grabbed a copy, excited to start reading it this summer while I’m home from work. I’m not a huge fan of Piper but I hear great things about this particular work.

As I hefted the book from the shelf and wrestled the tome into my smallish bookbag, I realized how big of a book it was. “I’m going to need a bigger bookcase…” popped into my head. Right after, all those thoughts of that long-ago summer in Martha’s Vineyard with Jaws filming props scattered around came back to me.

My favorite doctrine is the Doctrine of Providence. GotQuestions explains,

"Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8). This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governed by chance or fate."
"Through divine providence God accomplishes His will. To ensure that His purposes are fulfilled, God governs the affairs of men and works through the natural order of things."

And sometimes He works through the UNnatural order of things, like stopping the sun, parting the sea, or changing water to wine.

Providence is a comfort, it is reassuring, it gives me license to hand over control in submission to a wise and compassionate God. I’ve sometimes wondered if the Lord’s planning of my birth before the foundation of the world in the state of Rhode Island in the city of Providence was connected to my growing love for the Doctrine. It tickles me anyway, that I was born in Providence and I love the doctrine of Providence.

I AM going to need a bigger bookcase, lol. I’m running out of room and when I add this bad boy it’s going to make the shelf sag for sure. Good thing I providentially have time during the summer to read. See what I did there?

I’m grateful for God’s providential care, His salvation of my wretched soul at age 42, His raising up of good men turned to elders who plant churches for His name, for books, for my life. Take some time today to ponder Him, His creation, His plan, His providence in caring for you.

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19).


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.