Wednesday, October 25, 2006
"Sailing with His desire in your heart..."
My brother and I are bookends. I am the oldest and he is the youngest in our family of eight siblings spanning almost two decades. We share brothers, sisters, parents, childhood memories, photo albums, and holiday traditions. We share a love for Colorado and Maine, we share a deep hunger for genuine spirituality and analogies that illustrate divine guidance and God-impelled life lessons, and we love sailing.
My brother is a sea captain. Yes, in contemporary American culture, full of reality TV and super-sized meals that come magically out of a window in the side of a small building set in the middle of a strip mall parking lot, there are still sea captains. He has apprenticed with the oldest existing wood hull sailboat builder in the nation, taught sailing to countless teens through Outward Bound programs and has sailed private sailboats from hither and yon to thither and there for clients around the world. I too have my Captain's license, but have not sailed for many years. But that doesn't stop us from wandering into sailing lore, analogies, and colloquialisms whenever we are in the same "port".
One day on the phone, some years ago, we were talking big sister to little...scratch that, he is well over six feet tall and I am just over five....younger brother about how one might think about decisions and choices that present themselves to the spiritual explorer.
I heard myself saying to him:
You know when you are sitting in the harbor waiting for the next call of the sea toward a new port. And suddenly you are impelled to sail to Pago Pago. "Yeah..." says he, oh so wistfully, and we chuckle. Well, I like to think of our desire to do something as that impulsion to sail to the next "new world". I think of hoisting my sails as something I do each time I get mentally quiet and open my heart to God's message, or call, to a mission and a purpose in my life.
When the first small breeze of desire wafts into my softly raised sails I test the wind. I do so by asking myself, "What is the language being used in this message...is it fear based or love-based. Am I being impelled to move in this direction because I am afraid of standing still or because I love what/who is moving me forward. Do I love sailing or am I afraid of becoming stagnate in the harbor? Am I dissatisfied with this port or am I eager to learn more about the island in the horizon....if the language is love, compassion, authentic interest I open my sails a bit more, tighten my lines and lift my anchor. If the language is fear, dissatisfaction, boredom, "change for change sake" I slack the sheets and patiently wait until the wind/language changes.
Once I have my sails raised and the anchor up I begin my exit out of the harbor, but how do I know my way? What is there to assure me that I won't run my bow up on a sand bar, take out my keel on a reef, or get into a tangle with any one of the hidden monsters below the surface.
Well, this is where this analogy really took off for me...Shawn's eyes may have glazed over at this point, but we were on the phone so I assumed he was as interested in what I was "hearing" as I was. But I digress... Every sailor knows that a good harbor is well prepared for safe entrance and exit. The harbormaster sets buoys to the left and the right of a safe passage from inner harbor to open water. A good sailor takes his/her time sailing out of the harbor watching to keep the buoys of one color on the left and another on the right until she/he reaches open water. Once in open water you can wisely raise your sheets (sails) tighten your lines and fly through the foam....
So what are the buoys....I like to think that they are the Ten Commandments (scroll down to see blog from September 20 titled, "Dear God, Who Am I?") Ten buoys that I take every desire through before opening my sails to the wind and letting them catch the air fully and fly on the wings of the wind.
If "desire" is prayer...as Mary Baker Eddy defines it in her work, Science and Health and "prayer" is, as she further states, "God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind."... then by mathematical reasoning (if A+B = C, then C - B = A): desire is God's gracious means...not our own....for accomplishing whatever He wants us to do, to forward the Christianization (and for me this is all about behavior....acting like Christ - kind, compassionate, authentic, forgiving...not religious affiliation or colonization) and health of mankind.
It's like when my mom would say to me: "You love horses, right?" And I would say, "More than anything on earth!" "Ah, then you won't mind mucking out the stalls for them." She had me there. I think of desire as something God puts in my heart as love to prime me for wanting to do, what He needs me to want to do, in order accomplish His universal plan. Since He has full access to my heart he can enrich my affections for anything that serves His purpose. And I will love it so much that I may even think it was my idea all along...silly me...thinking I could create a desire, when God is the only cause and creator.
Those Ten Buoys have saved me from making shipwreck of my life so many times.
With God as the Wind, Pneuma, Spirit and with His hand on yours at the tiller....you'll be sailing your life in open water in (which by the way isn't always smooth sailing...but it is always exciting!). That doesn't mean that everyone will always think your adventure to Pago Pago is a great idea or that it could possibly be "God-inspired" when you ought to be putting on a suit and going into an office Monday through Friday to make the living that they have chosen for themselves (psst...it's okay...that's the desire that God has put in their heart) ....but thank God you don't have to run your ship through their buoys...only His. And this part is truly only between you and God...opinions from other sailors don't count when they aren't in your boat. They don't have your perspective on the horizon, the sound and angle of the Wind, or how close the buoys are to your bow.
Try sailing with the confidence of having those changeless, but ever-fresh and useful buoys to trust your desires with...you may find yourself on an island drinking out of a coconut while you teach Samoan children to play the flute, or in Africa feeding orphans, or in New Orleans building houses for Habitat for Humanity, or on the south side of Chicago running a day care center and cooking mac and cheese for your family at night....but it will be His desire in your heart that will have gotten you there....
Thanks Shawn for helping me learn another lesson with you...you are a great captain
Listen....I think the winds are picking up....