Poem: In Need of Sistering

In Need of Sistering

The boat is old. There is dry rot. Boards missing.
Calking missing.
The keel hangs on by a few rusty iron bolts.
One or two of the ribs are broken, in need
of sistering.

Someone has moved it here, under shelter.
Propped up and protected.
An act of faith, you are not sure you would make
to take something so broken
and see more than scrap lumber or firewood.

There is barely enough left
to see it’s once graceful lines,
to imagine it seaworthy and gleaming,
straining against sails and wind and waves.

You think of such people in your own life,
those who picked up the rubble
in a belief you did not have yourself,
that underneath the brokeness, you lived.
worth the time and trust to allow you
in your self restoration,
plying you, not with advice and work,
but faith and love.

You walk around the boat. Maybe forty feet long,
mostly wasted and worn.
But at one end, work has begun.
The rot scraped away. A rib sistered with cedar.
And you begin to see it. What it was,
What it will be.

There is no logic in restoration.
Not of things. Not of souls.
They take far more work.
It would be easier to begin again.
Less work. Less risk.
It will take years to finish.

But your gratitude in those before you,
those who believed, and acted on the belief
that nothing in God’s world deserves abandonment,
not even you, your gratitude for such souls,
has been transformative, leaving you less a restoration
than a new creature, made again in their image.

About this poem

The people in our lives who live through our worst are a special kind of saint. They live in God’s inage when we cannot.

The picture was taken at Mystic Seaport, CT, where they restore many such wrecks into magnificent, seaworthy craft. It takes imagination and faith to do such work.

Sistering means to cut out a a new rib of the boat, and attach it to the old, broken rib, making it strong again. In the same way we can come along side those we choose to love, and make them strong again. There’s an art to it, either way.



  1. I’m used to reading good words from you-these are some of your best- ‘nothing in God’s world deserves abandonment,
    not even you, ‘

  2. Brother Tom,

    I find this a confusing phrase: “come alongside those we CHOOSE to love…”

    Biblically, are we allowed to do this?


    • It is not a biblical thing, but a human one. Biblically, we should love all. But the reality is that most people choose to love some, and not to love others. Sad. Wrong in a way, but self protective – it is what humans do.

      • Agree completely…and trying to get better at expanding my circle! Blessings!

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