Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Just to be sure, I had to look up the definition of “ballast” in the dictionary. It confirmed what I already believed but also added additional insight. My initial idea was verified by the American Heritage Dictionary which stated: “Heavy material that is placed in the hold of a ship or the gondola of a balloon to enhance stability.” Childhood had provided another illustration of this as I tried to fly a kite in turbulent winds and found it only possible when a tail was added. But the dictionary continued: “Something that gives stability, especially in character.” It was the especially in character that caught my attention. But back to that later.

What brought the term to mind was seeing various statues scattered throughout the many temples in Thailand. Some of these were in the shape of an animal and put among the shrubbery for decorative purposes. Others depicted warriors armed with appropriate weapons, while still others portrayed philosophers, monks, or noblemen. The most graceful were those of Chinese ladies carved in stone. Today, many of these Up Chao are found upon the temple grounds.

Their origin came from an earlier time when Thailand carried on an active exporting business with China. When the ships carrying these goods returned from China these heavy statues were placed in the bottom of the boat to give it stability. That was their primary function, but the Chinese merchants also hoped affluent members of Thai society would find them of interest. And of course they did. Porcelain and seashells were also used for the same purpose.

But let’s go back to that reference which alluded to providing stability to our character. While we shouldn’t confuse these statues as depictions of gods, we could certainly offer our belief in an All-knowing God who provides us with assurance in a troublesome sea. Scripture furnishes us with a mental picture of what we personally think Christ must have looked like. The individual I envision delivering the Sermon on the Mount certainly has little resemblance to the warrior guarding this particular temple gate. Blessed, we are, to have such a loving God.