I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. A line from the poem Invictus (Latin for ‘unconquered’) I have always loved. But recently I looked a little closer at the entire poem and what it was really saying.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
It was written by the English poet William Ernest Henley while he was hospitalized and recovering from surgery. He suffered from complications of tuberculosis and was slated to have a second surgery to remove his other leg. Here he was at this time of grave difficulty and seeking strength to endure his ordeal. Within him there was no acceptance of the one true God, instead he sought to draw strength from himself, as he calls it his ‘unconquerable soul’.
There was a time when those last few lines would wake up the fighter within me. Giving rise to the conqueror spirit I thought I had within me. Activating thoughts that all was in my hands, my destiny was totally my own. Whatever I wanted to accomplish was up to me. Blending seamlessly with my then life’s philosophy “if it is to be it is up to me”. Leaving no room for God and his intentions for me.
This whole idea of being the master of self is elevated in our society. We are primed to look within to find our source of strength. If we were looking within to find the one true God, we would find ourselves on the right path. But that is not what this looking within is geared towards. It is an effort to be the master of our selves.
Nowhere is it more widely reflected than in the ever booming self- help industry. Millions of books are written each year advising us on how to master some aspect of our selves. Clearly as a people we are searching for a means of mastery over life’s situations.
One Forbes magazine article tried to identify what exactly people are looking for and puts it in one word, ‘hope’. What is even more interesting is, this hope that is being searched for seems elusive, because the same people keep returning to get more of this material.
The world chooses to seek hope within themselves, but believers of Jesus have a better option. We serve a God of hope. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.
In God we find joy and peace when we are faced with life’s difficulties. He gives us the strength to stare our worries in the face and respond instead as Dorothy Day did, “Christ is the master of my fate! Christ is the captain of my soul!”
In Jesus Christ we find the one true master of our fate.