I love sailing. The longer I sail, the more God teaches me about himself and our relationship. Here are some things I have learned:
1. You can actually have a close relationship with the wind
The term used to describe God’s Holy Spirit is “Wind” or “Breath”. The Greek word is “pneuma”, from which we get words like “pneumonia” and “pneumatic”. I love that this is how God chose to describe how his presence would operate. You learn very quickly as a sailor that if you are going to be successful at all you need to learn how to read the wind. There are lots of ways to do it. You watch the direction of the waves, flags, clouds, etc. You feel it on your face and neck. Once you recognize its presence, it’s really not that hard to notice. You begin to feel like you have a relationship with it; not necessarily on speaking terms but more of an intuition or a mutual understanding. That is how I have begun to engage God’s presence. It’s just there. It was never meant to be hard to notice or read. I’m designed to be able to engage it like a sailboat.
2. You rarely know exactly where you are but that’s okay
Navigation on the water is not the same as on land. On land I can stand on a static location, look at that position on a map, and say with confidence, “I am here.” On the water it is a little different. For one thing, you are rarely in one place for very long, even when you are not actively moving. The wind, current, and tide all contribute to some sort of movement even when it feels like you are completely stopped. Even when you are moving, all of those forces combine to make finding your exact position on a chart very difficult. And even when you do find it… that was where you were a few seconds ago. I feel like it is the same with God. There is a certain mystery in following Jesus though life. Rarely does it feel like everything is worked out and all the problems of the world are solved. What seems more important is enjoying the safe water and making sure you stay off the rocks and hazards. I wonder sometimes if we spent too much time worrying about whether we are in the exact right place when we really have lots of safe water to enjoy.
3. Your best bet is to work with nature
When you are sailing, the wind calls the shots. You cannot change its direction or speed. However, when you are at the tiller of a sailboat, you get to work with the wind. You get to decide when you want to start, how you want the sails trimmed, and what direction you want to go… up to a point. There’s about a 90 degree arc you cannot sail into at the best of times. Often times it’s a bit more than that. Sailboats are often equipped with decent engines and fuel tanks but the fact of the matter is they are not designed to go very long under engine power.
4. The most important things are outside your control
There is a certain vulnerability you accept as a sailor. This begins the minute you launch your boat in the spring. All winter long your boat sits on a cradle covered and protected. The minute the hull hits the water there are any number of things that can happen that are outside your control until the boat lands in the cradle again in the fall. For the months the boat floats it will experience forces from the wind, weather, current and tides. You have no say in where the wind will come from. What if a storm comes? What if the mooring line lets go? At the end of the day, a sailor has no choice but to accept this vulnerable state and trust that he/she is will be given the wisdom needed to meet every situation. Sometimes I wonder whether we have gotten so good at micromanaging certain aspects of our lives that we convince ourselves that we are in control of much more than we really are. Sailing reminds me that I am ultimately vulnerable on this earth but with God I will be given what I need to meet every situation.
5. Fast and slow days can both be fun
Some days the wind blows steady and hard. Other days you can wait all day to feel nothing but a gentle breeze. You learn to accept this as a sailor. You also learn to appreciate both and make the most of it. On the aggressive days you say to yourself, “This stiff breeze is a gift – let’s make the most of it.” On the slow days you learn to notice the scenery, the sounds and the warmth of the sun. There is an irregular rhythm in sailing. Often times if feels like there is an irregular rhythm in daily life as well. We get interrupted, overbooked, and stretched thin. I am learning to appreciate the slow days when they come because I know there is a stiff breeze over the horizon.
6. Wind is free… so is God’s Grace
The price of wind never goes up. Cottages require propane and electricity. Powerboats guzzle fuel. You can also guarantee that somewhere right now the wind is blowing. Before too long it will be windy here too. Wind is a force and a gift – much like God’s Grace. His favour cannot be earned. It is freely given because of his love. When I feel the first kiss of a breeze after a calm day I am reminded of God’s continuous gift of his grace and presence.
Want to feel the presence of God today? His peace and power may be closer than you think.
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